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Black Holes and Revelations (WB)

Muse might once have deserved its reputation as Radiohead's paranoid little brother, but the British band's fourth album should finally retire that tired analogy. Like all good fourth albums, Black Holes answers the fundamental question so many groups avoid: Why keep doing this? The reason is Muse's mainstream ambitions, more akin to U2 than to Thom Yorke and company, which the surprisingly funky crossover move "Supermassive Black Hole" makes abundantly clear. But it's the gorgeous "Starlight" that proves Muse has the songwriting ability to be truly supermassive.

The happy part of all this, however, is that Matt Bellamy and his two bandmates make their most outright commercial album without sacrificing the prog-inspired wankery and weirdness of yore. From the opener, "Take a Bow," Bellamy remains obsessed with the conspiracies that (allegedly) bedevil us all. And the final three songs might be Muse's finest hour. Fusing (Freddie) Mercury, Morricone, metal, and mariachi brass, the suite culminates with the awesome "Knights of Cydonia," six minutes of operatically ridiculous bliss that's as far from Kid A as you can get.

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