Formed in Devon, England in 1994, it took nearly a decade for prog-rockers Muse to break through in the United States. Despite initial comparisons to Radiohead, Muse persevered with its combination of apocalyptic imagery and sci-fi guitar work, and by the early 2000s, the group had become one of the biggest rock groups in the world.
Muse’s 1999 debut, Showbiz, was recorded by British producer John Leckie (Stone Roses, Public Image Ltd.) and released stateside on Madonna’s Maverick Records imprint; despite such taut singles as “Sunburn” and “Muscle Museum” — both of which featured the creeping guitar lines and distressed vocals of frontman Matt Bellamy — Showbiz failed to make much of an impact in the U.S. The band’s follow-up, Origin of Symmetry (2001) introduced more keyboards and pianos to the group’s sound, resulting in overwrought but nonetheless engaging singles like “Bliss.” Though it was a critical an commercial hit in the U.K., Maverick did not issue the album in America, and Origin wouldn’t receive a proper stateside release until 2005.
In 2002, Muse released a double-A side single, “Dead Star”/”In Your World,” as well as the live album Hullabaloo Soundtrack. But it wasn’t until 2004 that the group finally made a large push in the United States, with a set at that year’s Coachella festival in support of Absolution (Number 107, 2004). The album found the band inching closer toward Queen territory, especially on the theatrical “Time Is Running Out,” a doomsday anthem which garnered radio play in the United States and helped the band earn a spot on that summer’s Curiosa tour. The band’s next album, Black Holes & Revelations (Number Nine, 2006), was its most idiosyncratic album yet, with songs such as the robotic dance-club hit in “Supermassive Black Hole” (Number Six Modern Rock, 2007) and the pop ballad “Starlight” (Number Two Modern Rock, 2007). The album’s high point, “Knights of Cydonia” (Number Ten Modern Rock, 2006), is a mish-mash of spaghetti-western guitar and “Bohemian Rhapsody”-style vocals and, like the best Muse songs, it is audacious enough to work. In March 2008 the band released HAARP: Live At Wembley, a live recording of the band’s June 2007 show at Wembley Stadium that debuted at Number 47 on the Billboard Top 200.