Ah, Muse. The band have become increasingly fond of trying their artistic hands at brave new concepts, but somehow always manage to just fall short of the hurdle.
‘Drones’ is the seventh studio release from Muse and the first since 2012’s ‘The Second Law’ (which was also a concept album…). The earlier works of Matt Bellamy and co illustrate that they possess an immeasurable amount of musical talent. The quality of what they deliver has slipped slightly over the past few years however, and ‘Drones’ is not up to par to reclaim the throne just yet.
‘Drones’ is another concept album, and at this stage they’re becoming a bit stale. The protagonist undergoes a great amount of transformation across the twelve tracks of the album; from a depressed and beat up human in the opening track, Dead Inside, (which is a bit like an I Want To Break Free/Eurovision hybrid) to a revolutionary being who stands up and fights back in Revolt. This kind of ideology is generally confined to teenage dystopian novels and for good reason. It all feels a bit too much like preachy propaganda.
Weird lyrical messages aside, musically ‘Drones’ is a mostly solid album. Bellamy’s guitar noodling is still top drawer while Chris Wolstenholme manages to deliver some earth shatteringly good basslines. This is the heaviest Muse have sounded since the days of ‘Origin of Symmetry ‘and while it’s a nice change, it still isn’t quite enough to distract from Bellamy’s messy lyrics.
The first eight tracks are in many ways, more than enough. Psycho boasts a contagious riff that will keep you entertained, Mercy features some fantastic falsetto from Mr. Bellamy and The Handler could have been a song off ‘Origins of Symmetry’. Defector is where the protagonist grows a pair and frees himself from the bindings of society. Oh, if only they’d done the sensible thing and ended it there…
Revolt is a funny track. It’s oddly catchy and features a belter of a chorus, but it belongs in an episode of Glee. It’s literally four minutes of encouraging people to revolt and take over. It has some Queen-esque backing lyrics and a chord progression in the chorus that belongs in a dodgy pop song. It’s a song you’ll almost be embarrassed to like… but you’ll like it anyways.
The pairing of Aftermath and The Globalist bring back the strange rock opera vibe stronger than it was before and it is nothing short of woeful. Aftermath doesn’t sound like a Muse song and The Globalist is like a chamber Bellamy retreats into to have his ego caressed for an entire ten minutes. As has been previously mentioned, the first eight songs of this album were more than enough. Closing track, Drones, is a weird acapella number where the protagonist says that his family were killed by drones. At this point, it’s hard to care.
As time goes on, it feels like Muse are becoming that crazy old guy on the street corner who babbles conspiracy theories about there being fluoride in the water. Bellamy’s obsession with war and backroom soldiers will hopefully end sooner rather than later, but until then we may as well just strap in and try to digest whatever the trio deliver us. As it starts, the glimpses of former greatness scattered throughout ‘Drones’ are just enough to leave the listener asking themselves where it all went wrong.