An album was released last month from a band that I had never really listened to before, but is a band that is recommended to me constantly. “Oh, you like the White Stripes? You’ll like them.” Or possibly “If you like Radiohead, you’ll definitely love these guys.” Over and over, I am told to listen to Muse. I might have heard their more popular songs like “Uprising” and “Madness” on the radio, but have never made the connection. With their latest album “Drones” released recently, I decided to let it be my first taste of them.
For those unfamiliar with the band like I was only weeks ago, Muse is a popular rock band from England, consisting of Matthew Bellamy on vocals/guitars/keys, Christopher Wolstenholme on bass guitar/vocals/keys, and Dominic Howard on drums. Upon listening to their music for the first time, I can hear the resemblance to Radiohead, being a harder and experimental sound with moments of progressive and space rock. To call this band a progressive rock band, though, is a little bit of a stretch, but I can understand where critics and listeners come up with such an opinion.
I would say their sound is more closely related to a pop/alternative rock, consisting of heavily overdriven guitar riffs like the Foo Fighters/Queens of the Stone Age right aside piano ballads that remind me of Coldplay/30 Seconds to Mars. Their newest album “Drones” basically throws all these names into a blender and presses the on button.
Much of this album follows the same tempo and flavor from start to finish. Each song has a catchy rhythm, mixed with weird sound effects, falsetto vocals a la Jeff Buckley, and fairly simple drum beats. Simply put, the album is straightforward. For being a progressive album, I actually was a little underwhelmed. There aren’t too many highs and lows, and aren’t too many highlighting moments for any band member. Dare I ask, is this my first negative review? Perhaps it doesn’t catch my attention like most of the music I tend to listen to, but that doesn’t mean this album is devoid of great material.
There are two songs in particular that stood out to me: “The Handler” and “The Globalist.” I believe these two songs are the two best on the album, and for different reasons. “The Handler” starts with that overdriven guitar sound, but chimes in with deeps bass lines and drum beats that bring the song down a whole other level, one that isn’t pursued too much in “Drones.” Alongside these extremely deep and low tones is Bellamy’s high-pitched vocals, drifting between sharp and flat notes that give a very eerie vibe in the song’s chorus. Add in the sound effects over his vocals and the song becomes even creepier. A simple but nicely inserted solo using a phaser pedal extends the song into the four minute mark. Every time I play this song, I can’t help but play it twice.
The other song, “The Globalist,” runs over 10 minutes long. For that reason alone, I believed it was worth mentioning. Being the most progressive sounding track on “Drones,” “The Globalist” starts off with a country western-style whistling over clean guitar chords, a much slower pace than any other track on the album. This sound shifts towards slide guitar and military style snare drumming, which continues the concept present throughout the album, which I will mention shortly. This section actually reminds me a little of David Gilmour’s solo material, which was a great change of pace. Sure enough, the track falls right back into the (by this point) slightly boring alternative rock sound and tempo half way through the song, which is where my attention shifts away. The song closes with a piano arrangement, followed by the a cappella title track.
Now for the other reason why most people suggest Muse to me: the lyrics. If you didn’t know, I’m a sucker for conspiracy theories. Not that I necessarily believe in them, but I am fascinated by the research, explanations, and devotion that comes with the territory. Turns out Mr. Bellamy is the same way. As stated in several press interviews, “Drones” follows a concept of indoctrination and defection as the main protagonist fights against the system. (source) To me, this concept alone sparks my interest in the album. Unfortunately, much of the lyrics are uninspiring to me. I feel Muse really had the chance to make a much larger and profound statement with their lyrics considering the state of the world today, but just flat out missed it. I wanted to be caught up in their vigor with youthful aspirations and invoke the libertarian views in me, but I just didn’t feel it in “Drones.” The lyrics are a little boring, predictable, and even at times laughable. The chorus of “Psycho” is a prime example:
“I’m going to make you, I’m going to break you, I’m going to make you / A f*cking psycho / Your ass belongs to me now” (source)
Another example is the abusive instructions between a drill sergeant and a private inserted in this song. It’s a little over the top and unnecessary. Maybe their next album will make me feel like standing up and fighting for what I believe in.
With all the positives and negatives I’ve mentioned, I’d still recommend “Drones” to anyone on this blog. Sure, it isn’t the perfect album. And sure, it isn’t progressive like most of the albums on my blog. But it’s still really catchy and interesting, perfect for driving and rocking out. I recommend Muse to any fans of those bands I listed in the first two paragraphs of this post. You can support them by checking out their website, or by following them on Facebook and Twitter. They’re currently touring in basically every country but the United States right now, so if you’re an international fan, you’re in luck.
And a question to my readers: Since I’ve only listened to “Drones,” what do YOU believe is the album I’d fall in love with? Sound off below!
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Check out this Youtube video featuring the single “Mercy”: