Matt Bellamy is now 42 years old and Guitars Exchange would like to celebrate his birthday (9 June 1978) by showcasing 10 of Muse’s best songs. The lead singer, songwriter and guitarist first came to public attention when Muse released their first album, Showbiz in 1999, and since then the band have gone on to release seven more albums and achieve worldwide fame. Among many notable facts, Bellamy has the distinction of both being named ‘guitarist of the decade’ (by Total Guitar Magazine in January 2010) and, in the same year, was confirmed as being the man who had smashed most guitars while on tour (the Guinness Book of Records counted 140). Here is our top 10 list:
Plug in Baby (2000)
Bellamy once explained that Plug in Baby deals with how people respond to technological developments: "There's the good side and the bad side [to technology]: becoming a collective whole via cables and genetically engineering bodies that can exist out in space, or the loss of individualism."
Songfacts report that Bellamy “used a Hugh Manson custom electric guitar, with a built-in Z Vex Fuzz Factory set for the classically-influenced intro riff. The song helped Bellamy establish himself as one of the most innovative guitarists of his generation.”
Hilariously Bellamy has said that Muse “…got the name for the song Plug in Baby from an Argos catalogue. This was back in the late 90's or 2000's. It was like a baby monitor and it was called a Plug in Baby. We thought that's a great song name, let's just use that."
Feeling Good (2001)
Bellamy has said that this outstanding cover version is "nowhere near as good,” as the original, but he “chose it because it’s got brilliant lyrics.”
It is “about becoming you…” he says, “getting rid of your past and thinking about leading a new life. I just want people to know that underlying what I do is something positive, and that I’m not here to kill myself or to destroy the situation we live in… [this song] looks to the future with hope."
This synth-driven tune represents positivity in all its aspects, “because it's a state of mind where you give everything you have without any need for return. It's also a song aimed towards someone's youth, someone who hasn't been exposed to stuff yet", Bellamy said.
Bliss “is perhaps the catchiest song ever written about wanting to electronically download someone else’s happiness into your own brain”, observed NME.
It is reportedly Bellamy’s favourite Muse tune.
This powerful song is about a stalker who is losing his mind over a girl. It features an outstanding bass line from Chris Wolstenholme, of which MusicRadar said: "[he] certainly takes center-stage with his intricate processed riff driving the singalong and providing a fat bedrock for Matt Bellamy's guitar histrionics".
Time is Running Out (2003)
Time is Running Out gave Muse their first UK top 10 hit. The context of both the song and the album Absolution was the 9/11 attacks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which had politicised Bellamy.
Various interpretations of this song have been put forward. It could be about a guy who is obsessed with a girl and can't let her go; it could be about the nuclear threat (the video recalls the film Dr Strangelove) - "you can't push it underground, you can't stop it screaming out, how did it come to this?" - or it could be about the temporary nature of our lives.
“Starlight is a more personal song about what it’s like to be on the road for a long period of time – you feel like you’re losing touch with who you are…” says Bellamy, “you are missing your girlfriend… and you start to feel a bit like "Cor blimey, where am I going?”
Taken from the album Black Holes and Revelations, Starlight started off “from a piano impro. We wanted to keep it as simple as possible, [it] had to be spontaneous, unleashing an energy that was difficult to capture. It’s influenced by The Strokes, on a drumbeat and basic bass lines. Its structure is simple, and its melodies are catchy”, says Bellamy.
The Muse frontman reportedly used to play a short Spanish guitar riff before the live version of the song. Later the guitar parts were left to Morgan Nicholls (who often plays guitar and keyboards on tour), before Bellamy picked up his six string again for the Psycho UK Tour.
Taken from Muse's fifth studio album The Resistance, Uprising was the band’s biggest US hit, spending 17 weeks at number one on the Alternative Songs Chart. The song is about big institutions letting the public down, and the importance of protest. Bellamy told MTV that Resistance is a key track: "It's the first track on the album, it kind of sums up what the album's about. You know, just sick of all these bloody bankers, politicians... just turning everything to a load of bollocks. Just spending money on shit and blowing everything. So, it's kind of like a song that says, 'Take the power back, but have a good time at the same time.' Have a good time all the time, that's what we believe".
Bellamy can be seen ‘playing’ a Manson MB-1 Signature Electric guitar on the Uprising video. A commentator on Equipboard notes that "these are kinda unique. [They] have Matt's custom electronics, he has a Kaoss Pad built in so he can control the Kaoss pad in the rig. It has a Fernandes Sustainer so he can do on-the-spot feedback; these guitars are designed by him and Hugh Manson over in the UK - he builds all these guitars”.
Undisclosed Desires (2009)
"It's the first song we did where I don't play guitar or piano… it was one of the first songs I've ever done when I don't play anything. I just sing. It samples strings that have been edited and rhythmically placed with an electronic drumbeat and Chris [Wolstenholme] playing bass. So, it's a song where we all do the opposite of what we normally do. Dom [Howard] did electric drums instead of acoustic drums, Chris played the most embarrassing style of playing that you can play, and I just did nothing. It's like the anti-Muse song” Bellamy told Mojo magazine in August 2009.
He later added in a separate interview: "It's actually quite a personal song about me and my girlfriend. I'm thinking people will have had enough of geo-political stuff by the end of the album".
On Muse’s hugely successful fifth album Bellamy sought to channel ideas from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984:“I think if you had to boil it down to one theme, it would be the idea that there's some sort of romance taking place in this, call it contemporary England, with all the bollocks going on everywhere. So if I was in doubt as to where to go with a certain lyric or song I'd go back to those initial thoughts. Like Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. I read the book when I was at school and I only really took in the political side of it, but I read it again and the romance side moved me… that love story touched me more than the overall political meaning of the book. So I'd say that was one of the cornerstones of the album, really, the love story in that book."
Supremacy kicks off Muse’s sixth studio album The 2nd Law, which predicts the collapse of civilization due to environmental change and its effects. “Wake to see…” Bellamy sings ominously, “your true emancipation is a fantasy.”
[Muse Image Credit: ©Hans-Peter van Velthoven]