I was ready to give this album a middling rating. I had my mind set on the words. “I think I have Muse fatigue,” this review would have begun, with a bit of regret. Muse has been solid, but their shift towards bombastic concept records of late has actually made them more vulnerable, like every new release has the pathological need to outshine its predecessor. Drones definitely started that way: while “Dead Inside” and “Psycho” – the first two tracks revealed in the past few months – definitely sound like a return to basics the album promised to be, together it sounds as overblown and confusing as the worst parts of The 2nd Law. But Drones is, indeed, their back-to-basics record. Producer Mutt Lange manages to rein in the excesses of Bellamy and company, channeling it towards the band’s long-dormant glam rock side. Yes, Drones is a concept record too – it tackles, well, war and peace – but the enjoyable melodies, especially the one-two punch of “Reapers” and “The Handler”, make it a lot less overbearing than what came before. So, to me at least, a Muse album that I feel free to just enjoy. (At least until the end of “Drones” gets quiet, grand and weird.) There are parallels to the whole thing’s concept, I realize… [NB] | 4/5
“Dead Inside” by Muse | I wasn’t that complimentary when Muse released the first taste off their upcoming album, Drones, but I had a caveat: it isn’t the official single. This is. And it is better. Marginally better, but still, I was right. Marginally right. “Dead Inside” continues the band’s back-to-basics approach for this album, but this is more interesting. It’s not a complete step back, but it’s sexy and hard at the same time. (I should not put those adjectives together.) It’s sparse. It’s a bit Depeche Mode-like, but updated. The lyrics still feel a bit off, but you know, this might just do the trick? I don’t know. [NB]
“Psycho” by Muse | Oh, hi there, Muse. I did not realize we needed you again. I mean, things are so crazy we need someone to express it in a relatively friendly way. (No snipe, that.) Anyway, here’s the first taste off their next album, named Drones. It’s the same things I have heard before. Actually, it reminds me of “Uprising”. The lyrics don’t inspire me a lot. It’s not a bad song, but I don’t know. It does not feel inspired. The soldier bits actually are cringeworthy, but I take that I’ll have to hear the whole album to make sense of it. But there you go. The song isn’t inspired. Like drones would, actually. I mean, they can go classic rock on us and we won’t mind, but this is just uninspired. Thankfully, this isn’t going to be Drones‘ lead single. So am I pulling the trigger too early on this? [NB]
“I Belong To You (+Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)” by Muse | Of all the Muse songs, this is admittedly my favorite. I guess I find the whole thing slightly creepy – and I’m not referring to the French song they integrated into this. (My other favorite part of the song: the pop before the whole thing starts.) I listen to this song and I imagine Matt Bellamy looking sinister, while everything explodes behind him, singing this to Kate Hudson… anyway, I’ve not heard this song in a long time, at least until the odd twist of hearing this in two radio stations – one from Hong Kong, and the other from France. The version they play doesn’t have the French part, which is surprising for the very cultural French.
First, to those fears that Muse has embraced dubstep fully: yes, they have, but no, they haven’t. The dubstep influences are all over The 2nd Law, their sixth release – but save for “Follow Me” (coproduced by Nero) and the last two instrumentals, you only hear a hint of the wobble, with most tracks taking in a more electronic vibe – occasionally still as bombastic as Queen, but more often than not feeling a bit like James Blake. (They call him post-dubstep, right?) Muse is intent on making a change on this album, but this results in a bit of a messy offering: I’m disappointed we aren’t getting some sort of concept album like their last release The Resistance. Still, tracks like “Madness” (which is so kinky, I now realize) and “Save Me”, written and sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme, show that Muse can still get it together. It’s a noble effort, but maybe they can make a more coherent seventh offering. | 3/5