Theo Stone reminisces Bellamy & co.’s brief homecoming last term, but is unconvinced by their June release.
“I feel sorry for Matt Bellamy’s GP. If they ever have to give him a colonoscopy, they’ll be unable to work out which hole they’d need to examine.”
Warner Bros., 5 June 2015
[dropcap size=small]O[/dropcap]nce again, Muse’s reliability remains consistent, having kept to their three-year schedule by releasing their seventh album, Drones, earlier this year. After the haughty and overblown muddle that was The 2nd Law, it was widely expected that Muse would return to a more guitar-driven position. Early reports suggested that they had stripped back and had returned to their Showbiz – Absolution days.
For better or worse, this is only a half-truth.
In actual fact, the band still sounds as pompous as ever, a factor that is sure to help with sales; the ballads come thick and fast, as do the heavier tracks, and there are keyboards galore. Album opener ‘Dead Inside’ sounds like Depeche Mode on steroids, whilst the following song, ‘Psycho’, brings forth a barrage of distortion-laden riffing in typical Muse fashion (as well as some questionable lyrics and a Drill Sergeant).
Unfortunately, there are also a number of duds. ‘Mercy’ is an orgy of unbearably self-important throat warbling, whilst everything after ‘Defector’ is so obsessed with taking itself seriously that it quickly becomes unlistenable.
Mind you, the album is not without some standout contributions. Whilst Bellamy swaggers through the album as if it were his own personal pet project, the unsung hero of the band, Chris Wolstenholme, is able to deliver some of his finest bass lines to date. ‘Reapers’ is a brilliant example of this, where he becomes an amalgamation of Steve Harris and Geddy Lee, delivering a rapid-fire rhythm that holds the track together. The song is certainly the best on the album, and the thanks goes to this man alone.
But that’s not the only noticeable feature of the album, because Muse have gone and tried to pull off a Tommy. You’ve read that correctly, Drones is a rock opera/concept album.
Unfortunately, this is also the main reason as to why the album fails to substantially improve upon their previous work. The themes are about as subtle as Donald Trump (“Your ass belongs to me now”), and they frequently overstay their welcome. If you were to imagine the worst excesses of Neil Peart at his most Objectivist, and cross that with the ramblings of your everyday internet conspiracy theorist, and throw in a complete misunderstanding of Noam Chomsky’s political opinions for good measure, you would have Drones’ lyrics.
In many respects, the strength that lies in a vast number of the greatest concept albums is the fact that they are somewhat ambiguous in nature. They leave ideas and concepts open for the listener to consider, without harming the music, but Drones counterproductively tries to force its pseudo-‘intellectual’ conspiracy-laden ramblings down our throats without so much as a metaphor to satisfy the more observant listener. It makes for a wearisome experience, and this means that a significant amount of the album suffers.
I feel sorry for Matt Bellamy’s GP. If they ever have to give him a colonoscopy, they’ll be unable to work out which hole they’d need to examine.
Theo Stone, Online Features Editor