They Shoot Unicorns, Don’t They?


Space. Cradle of infinite curiosity. Swimming pool of Captain James T. Kirk. Womb of . . . Jawas. A frontier both awesome and absurd, encompassing both infinite complexity and an infinite capacity for stupid, stupid shit. And that, friends, will serve as our metaphor for Muse, a chart-topping British band that sounds like someone put a gun to Radiohead’s, er, head and forced Thom and co. to rock—no dystopian arty shit, just rock—for 72 hours straight. Muse records are like the last 16 hours of such a grueling They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? marathon session, earnest and ambitious to the point of desperation, their songs mangled but rather pretty, like a peacock run over by a Jetta.

But Black Holes and Revelations—specifically its final track—takes rock to Seussian levels of ridiculousness. “Knights of Cydonia” is one of the more fascinating chunks of pop culture to fall from the sky in years, or at least months, or at least days, considering how head-splittingly ephemeral such chunks have become. (Hours?) The song begins with the neighing of horses, the shooting of lasers, and an ominous high-pitched warble that evokes the whistle of a falling bomb. Then there’s the choir, followed by the Dick Dale–style guitar wankery, followed by the mariachi horns. There are synths and acoustic guitars and the drummer’s galloping beat, all while vocalist Matthew Bellamy shouts at the devil and wields his guitar like a Ghostbuster’s proton pack. Let’s not even get into the unicorn/robot/cowboy-adorned video. The best part? A buildup so epic it feels like its 1999 and Sasha and Digweed are spinning at Twilo and you’re candy-flipping and it’s like dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah until a digital choir of Bellamys declares, a cappella, “No one’s going to take me alive!/Time has come to make things right!”

Righteous? Wrongeous.

Remember how George Lucas was always mewling about how the last three Star Wars
flicks—the shitty ones—are the movies he wanted to make originally, but the technology wasn’t available at the time? Imagine if Styx or ELO said that. Imagine if they were in their prime today. That’s Muse, and that’s this sloppy, fascinatingly overindulgent album. ELO had a song called “Rockaria!” which they of course intended as literally “rock aria,” but we can all agree really means “Rock that’s been shat out violently.” Update the tech and you get “Knights of Cydonia,” the black-holiest of pop songs, like a black hole itself—so massive it’s invisible.

Muse play Hammerstein Ballroom Thursday at 6:30, $32, 212-777-1224.