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    Razorlight, Muse Aim for World Domination With Ambitious CDs

    razorlight1.jpgRazorlight and Muse have released albums with dreams of world domination written all over them.


    The title of best band in Britain could be up for grabs with Coldplay taking a break, though Radiohead may still return to take the crown. Pretenders such as Keane, Snow Patrol, Embrace, the Feeling and Kooks will also want to assert claims.


    The battle is given extra bite with the Muse CD nominated for the Mercury Prize. The Arctic Monkeys and Editors are also on the list. Muse's "Black Holes and Revelations'' (Warner Bros/Wea) has huge production and is musically ambitious, while Razorlight's self-titled second album (Vertigo) is just ambitious. The rivalry recalls Oasis and Blur at their peak vying for the best of Cool Britannia.Razorlight's careerism is clear with the titles of two of the best tracks. The closer is "Los Angeles Waltz'' -- with a Springsteen-like gut wrench about getting what you deserve -- and there's a power ballad, "America,'' crafted for Stateside stadium stardom.


    It's easy to picture an ocean of fans holding up lighters as Johnny Borrell sings that he has spent "all my life watching America.'' This leads to the grandstanding lament that there's nothing on TV or radio to believe in. Borrell obviously excludes himself from that statement. He should remember that the star who pontificates about pompousness in others runs the risk of having similar words applied to himself: be they poseur, portentous or something less polite.


    Billy, Not Bob


    Borrell isn't the new Dylan, isn't the greatest songwriter of his generation and does sound like Billy Joel as he asks "Who needs love? Who needs a heaven up above?'' After his self- hyping, some listeners might take pleasure if he went wrong. Sadly for them, fortunately for this album, the Joel moment is a rare lapse.


    Producer Chris Thomas subtly enhances the garage sound of Razorlight's stripped-down 2004 million-selling debut "Up All Night,'' making the nervy guitars sound so brassy on "Hold On'' that they become Motown pop. Guitarist Bjorn Agren adds New Wave detail, making the single "In the Morning'' worth downloading. The 10-track, 35-minute album is the British equivalent of the third Strokes CD, with echoes of U2, David Bowie and Sting.


    Muse is a trio, though the group makes a lot more noise than the Razorlight's foursome. Muse's sound palette has broadened beyond "the poor man's Radiohead'' to add hints of New Order, Elvis Presley, Philip Glass and Richard Wagner.


    Burning in Hell


    This turns the band's fourth album into a potent chemistry set. It starts innocuously, with a plinky synthesizer on "Take a Bow.'' Matt Bellamy enters to say "You cast a spell on the country you run,'' while behind him a musical storm is brewing up. The song turns nasty. "You will risk all their lives and their souls? You will burn in hell for your sins.''


    The dance beat builds, the guitars tip into distortion and it explodes. There is a multitrack scream: "You must pay for your crimes against the earth!'' And this is just track one.


    The listener might wonder what Bellamy is singing about half the time -- he seems to think a universe-size hole is set to swallow us up and aliens may well invade. The prog-rock influences get too much as he proclaims "We're invincible!'' in best Queen fashion at one point and follows this with "Knights of Cydonia,'' where galloping horses melt into the closing chorus "No one's gonna take me alive!''


    The best way to listen to this CD is to put on headphones, say "whatever'' and let the sound wash over you. Along the way, there are some gems such as the simple melody "Starlight,'' which ditches the theatrics for a piano strain and the touching thought "I just wanted to hold you in my arms.'' Perhaps Bellamy is thinking of the Ramones song, "Today Your Love, Tomorrow the World.''


    Both CDs are 9.99 pounds in the U.K. The Muse CD is $15.98 in the U.S. and the Razorlight $25.49 on import.

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