A lead single about a proletarian revolt against the global banking crisis. A teaser campaign involving a worldwide musical treasure hunt. And an album that ends with a three-part, fully orchestrated symphony about an alternative theory of the creation of mankind. Is Muse the only young, stadium-filling rock band that could get away with this?
"I think 'get away with' is the key," singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy says with a laugh, regarding the band's new album, "The Resistance." The set will be released internationally Sept. 14 and a day later in the United States by Warner Bros. Records.
"The Resistance" is Muse's fifth album, but the first for which the band took charge of production duties. It's also the first that Bellamy, drummer Dom Howard and bassist Chris Wolstenholme recorded in one place-a warren of converted cellars on the edge of Lake Como in northern Italy, where Bellamy now lives.
The first single, "Uprising," released digitally Aug. 4 in the United States, is an anthemic, shuffle-beat stomp with lines postulating approvingly about how "the fat cats had a heart attack." It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 81 and on Billboard's Rock Songs chart at No. 15.
Prior to "Uprising" the band had unveiled another track, "United States of Eurasia," as part of an international treasure hunt in which the band hid USB sticks containing portions of the song in seven cities. On its Web site Muse.mu, it supplied fans with clues to the sticks' locations in Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York and Dubai. Once all had been discovered and their contents uploaded to the site, the song was pasted together and made available for streaming.
"We wanted to make sure that we super-service the fans," says Matthieu Lauriot-Prevost, senior VP of international marketing at Warner Music International, adding that before the label did any "deals with specific platforms, we were servicing the Web site because we really want the fans to be there first."
Fans who pre-order the album from the official site are signed up to the Join the Resistance club, which entitles them to seven weeks of exclusive free video and audio downloads.
Songwriting for the album began in early 2008, with recording originally scheduled for that summer. Instead, the band accepted offers to tour South America, South Africa and the Middle East, a trip that proved influential for Bellamy.
"I remember listening to music I'd never heard before in Dubai-stuff that certainly had an effect on songs like 'Eurasia,' " he says. "And going to tango bars in Brazil . . . that gave us musical ideas that wouldn't have happened if we didn't do that tour."
The creation of the album's climactic, fully orchestrated "Exogenesis: Symphony Parts I-III," meanwhile, dates in part to the writing period around the band's third album, "Absolution" (2003), and was further catalyzed by Bellamy's contribution to the soundtrack for Clive Owen's 2008 thriller "The International."
"I hope it'll surprise people with the subtlety of the orchestration," Bellamy says.
"I don't think 'Exogenesis' is deliberately flamboyant in any way. Although if someone was to read the song title, they'd probably expect some really '70s prog-rock, Rush-style symphony."
Live, Muse is "warming up" with three weeks supporting U2 in the United States starting Sept. 24, while the American promo campaign kicks off with a Sept. 13 appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards. The band will also play two hometown shows Sept. 4-5 in Teignmouth in Devon, England, before a European arena run in late October.
The stage sets at those gigs will feature "Escher-esque towers with lots of stairs" and "elements you'd associate more with either circus or ballet," according to Bellamy, all of which should go some way to maintaining the band's rep as one of the world's greatest live acts.
The band's last studio album, 2006's "Black Holes and Revelations," sold 590,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and 810,000 in the United Kingdom, according to the Official Charts Co.-but Lauriot-Prevost is confident even bigger things await.
"Muse is ready to explode and go to the next step everywhere in the world," he says, adding that the label and Muse's North American management firm Q-Prime have "serious plans to break America big."
"If Muse can play a 50,000-seater stadium in Paris, why not play football stadiums in many other countries?" he asks. "With the new music I am confident there is no limit."