How well do you know their 'best ever album'?
Michael Baggs

11:47 28th November 2013

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Muse fans have named the band's 2003 album, Absolution, as the best ever released by the iconic Westcountry trio in a recent Gigwise poll. The album scored the band a UK No.1 single, and set them on the road to super-stardom - but how much do you know about it?

In September this year, the album turned ten years old, but still sounds as fresh today as it did a decade ago. As well as holding the Muse classics and hit singles 'Time Is Running Out', 'Hysteria', 'Sing For Absolution' and 'Butterflies And Hurricanes', it hailed the first time that Matt Bellamy and co truly cracked the mainstream, landing them their first UK No.1 album and arena tour, Stateside success and their first run at headlining Glastonbury in 2004.

To mark the album's victory in our poll, find out the ten essential facts every Muse fan needs to know about Absolution.

  • Home-grown: Despite the album's overblown sound and grand themes of death, religion, the end of the world and of course, space, frontman Matt Bellamy told the NME that the inspiration behind the record was a lot more down to Earth than it's predecessors: "Showbiz was a bit of teenage angst, Origin of Symmetry was about going on tour all the time and losing connection with our family and friends so we don't really know anyone apart from ourselves and even ourselves we didn't know anymore, and Absolution is more about us being personable, about us being normal people at home."

  • Love, Italy and Abba: Muse fans expecting another 'Citizen Erased' shuddered when they first heard Matt refer to Sweden's finest pop export, but luckily all it led to was the insane vocal backing in the chorus of 'Hysteria'. Speaking to NME before the album's release about their more 'uplifting' sound, he said: "I'm not married yet, but I've been drawn into this Italian world. I met this girl from over there so I'm into all that. I think there'll be some songs that are straightforward rock, some of my favourite new songs are like ABBA!"

  • Backwards talking: It's alleged that if you play the chorus to 'Stockholm Syndrome' backwards, Matt sings "You can't see me, we sneak off. I lost to love. Please ... save the night wind and high above, I lost to love. Sing, save." Only a batshit mental Muse fan would discover this.

  • MJ influence: Speaking of the inspiration behind Muse's first UK top hit 'Time Is Running Out', Matt said: "We wanted to go to something more funky, a little bit more... not funky but a little more groovy. It was something we'd never really done before. Something that made you want to click your fingers. Something that was more influenced by someone like Michael Jackson or someone like that. We wanted something that sounded like 'Billie Jean'."

  • Artwork: The now iconic-sleeve made by the late, great Storm Thorgerson, divides opinion among fans. Due to the apocalyptic themes of the album, many believe it to depict souls leaving the Earth while others see an alien invasion. Drummer Dom Howard however, settled the score: "The artwork can either been seen as people coming down to Earth or leaving the Earth, it's open to interpretation". Four different versions of the sleeve exist: one showing a man holding a gas mask, one with a man wearing a gas mask, one with a small girl and two of chaps in suits (like this one here).

  • Fury: Rarity and fan favourite 'Fury' was very, very nearly on the album. Matt wanted it to be on Absolution but Chris and Dom argued that it be dropped in favour of 'The Small Print'. It would later appear as the b-side for 'Sing For Absolution' and appears on the Japanese version of the album - in between 'The Small Print' and 'Endlessly', given the flow of tracks a whole new feel and dimension. The track was being played live as early as the year 2000, and has finds the soft spot in the hearts on hardcore Muse fans everywhere.

  • Printing error: Early versions of the album with the 'making of' DVD featured the tracklisting with 'Interlude' and 'Hysteria' printed the wrong way around. This led to several disappointing evenings of Muse fans requesting 'Hysteria' in bars. There's probably some crazy dedicated fanatics out there who would pay top dollar for 'the wrong version'.

  • In your face: Muse's second (and bloody brilliant) second album was largely ignored in America at the time of release (due to a conflict with their record label about the falsetto in 'Plug In Baby'). So US Muse fans rejoiced when their fortunes turned and the band crossed the pond with a much more 'radio friendly' album. However, on the opening night of the US tour in Atlanta in 2004, Matt Bellamy smashed his face into his guitar and cut it open, claiming that he was used to arenas and not tiny club shows and lost his footing. There's a grim video of it on Youtube somewhere, featuring the now immortal line: "I'm sorry guys, I fucked up my face."

  • The Darkness, who?: Despite shining as the future of arena rock with integrity, Muse took home the 2004 BRIT Award for Best Live Act, but lost out on Best British Rock Act to The Darkness (who also claimed Best British Album). Justin Hawkins also said some mean stuff about Matt Bellamy 'sounding like a cat being sexually assaulted' at the time. Who's laughing now?

  • Triumph and tragedy: The astounding success of Absolution saw Muse headline the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury for the first time in 2004. While it was seen as a triumph and immortalised in a live DVD, drummer Dom Howard's father died on the Worthy Farm site shortly after their performance. "It was the biggest feeling of achievement we've ever had after coming offstage", said Matt Bellamy . "It was almost surreal that an hour later his dad died. It was almost not believable. We spent about a week sort of just with Dom trying to support him. I think he was happy that at least his dad got to see him at probably what was the finest moment so far of the band's life." The band also headlined V Festival that summer with The Strokes, but more bad luck meant that bassist Chris Wolstenholme broke his wrist in a game of football with Cooper Temple Clause. They poached the bassist from The Streets for a string of shows, who still plays synth with Muse today.

Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.

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