Too much is never enough: Muse’s Chris Wolstenholme reinvents art-rock bass for the 21st century

(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

A well-worn cliché about the Brits is that they're serious, understated, subtle, and—heavens, no—certainly not silly or anything like that. Well, Muse’s Chris Wolstenholme is having none of it, musically or otherwise. “There’s always been this thing with English bands where it’s a bit shoe-gaze-y, you know what I mean? British bands find it hard to just let loose and rock out sometimes. Back in the ’70s, British bands were great; they had a certain over-the-top-ness. It’s almost like bands are scared to do stuff like that now.” Not so for the members of Muse: “We just think, Fuck it, you know?”

“Over-the-top-ness” is a good way to describe the bombastic blend of decade-associated styles brought to bear on Muse’s fifth studio album, The Resistance [Warner Bros.]. From the ’70s, Muse unabashedly draws on operatic, classically influenced art-rock bands for epic tunes like “Eurasia”; the bass-synth-inspired, totally ’80s new wave groove in “Uprising” sounds like a cross between Gary Glitter and Gary Numan; and it’s all powered by the hard-rock rhythm sections of Wolstenholme’s coming-of-age decade, the grungy ’90s. Try to imagine mashing up Queen, Depeche Mode, and Rage Against The Machine, and you can understand why Chris has taken the attitude he has. “Sometimes,” says the 30- year-old, “it’s good to be silly.”

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