Teignmouth rock band Muse have just released their seventh studio album “Drones”, a concept album based around the theme of the dehumanization of modern warfare.
Matt Bellamy (vocals / guitars / keyboards), Christopher Wolstenholme (bass / keyboards / backing vocals) and Dominic Howard (drums / percussion / synthesizers), having produced the last two albums themselves, decided this time to produce alongside legendary producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange (Def Leppard, Shania Twain).
The album traces the story of a soldier trained to essentially become an unthinking killing machine who gradually becomes disillusioned with the unseeing brutality of warfare, rebels and eventually rises to power himself.
Often thought of as the band most likely to take the place of Queen, with Bellamy’s soaring vocals, hugely layered backing vocals and the progressive and evolving sound that the band have developed throughout their career, it’s fair to say that this album is another step to achieving that – if indeed they haven’t already surpassed Queen in some ways. Certainly theirs is big, bombastic and multi-layered music, and often just as catchy as some of Queen’s greats. To me the difference is that Muse take a bit more listening to – in a good way – and aren’t so “pop” as Queen often were.
Bellamy himself stated that “To me “Drones” are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones. This album explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors”. Sounds complex eh? Add to that suggestions of a second layer of meaning that may, or may not, have something to do with the breakup of Bellamy’s relationship with his fiancée, Hollywood star Kate Hudson, and there’s a lot to digest here.
Despite the subject matter and potential sub-plot tackled here, many reviews have criticised Bellamy’s lyrics as being too simple and sub-standard. Why do so many folk seem to think that something only has real value if it’s highbrow and intellectual? There is nothing wrong with using simple words to tell your story, and at the end of the day if the listener enjoys what they hear, who cares what anyone (including me) thinks?
Musically “Drones” is very easy to get in to, despite the progressive and sometimes demanding nature of the music. This is in some way due to the recognisability of Muse’s sound, despite their evolution, together with some familiar sounding passages. For example, “Psycho” has reminders of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in its guitar riff, “Reapers” has an uncanny echo of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and the massively epic “The Globalist” loosely uses (I think) Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique”. That said, this isn’t spot-the-influence like you might find with Oasis records.
Simply put, this is a superb Muse album. “The Resistance” was brilliant, “The 2nd Law” took a left turn and needed a bit of time to appreciate, but “Drones” is fantastic straight out of the box…
1. Dead Inside / 2. Drill Sergeant / 3. Psycho / 4. Mercy / 5. Reapers / 6. The Handler / 7. JFK / 8. Defector / 9. Revolt / 10. Aftermath / 11. The Globalist / 12. Drones