Muse’s Drones Hits The Mark
Rev it up. Conspiracy and paranoia on full. Bombast and pessimism on full. Another Muse album has hit.
Drones, Muse’s seventh album, echoes some of the raw production values of their previous albums while looking wistfully into the glossy future of third-party war and dehumanization. Muse says the album is supposed to be a story about one protagonist in a world war situation transitioning from loss to indoctrination to defection.
Muse has never been a subtle band and this album is no exception. Starting with the crowd-pleasing and oddly personal “Dead Inside,” frontman Matt Bellamy bellows a scathing disillusioned indictment against the ever-present “Them.” (Or is it about his ex-fiancée?) The whole album, in fact, shouts down the unnamed conspirators seemingly present in every Muse album. But that’s not a bad thing.
“Psycho” is an unrelenting political stadium-blaster that includes an energetic sneering guitar riff (Bellamy riffs are never a bad thing) and the funniest inclusion of the word “ass” in a chorus.
The next two tracks, “Mercy” and “Reapers,” are the strongest and most bombastic on the album. Both tracks harken back to previous Muse albums with Starlight-esque piano and BellamyTM Falsetto. “Reapers” especially stands out with blistering riffs and a growling vocoder warning “HERE COME THE DRONES.” Both would be equally at home at Wembley Stadium with Muse classics like “Knights of Cydonia” and “Time Is Running Out.”
The first half of the album (up until the huge-sounding Chris Wolstenholme bass showcase “The Handler”) is strong. Crazy guitar riffs, a huge sense of scale, and conspiracy theories abound. “True Muse” if you will.
“The Defector” and subsequent tracks largely miss the mark. “I’m free/from society/you can’t control me/I’m a defector” feels childish after the raw rage the first half set up. “Revolt” and “Aftermath,” while catchy, feel more at home in a mid-90s action movie than a Muse album.
Drones doesn’t find its footing again until the concept track “The Globalist.” At 10:07, it’s one of Muse’s longer tracks. The western-sounding whistle intro gives way to a prog-rock story of a self-made dictator, apocalypse, and regret (proclaimed the “second story” of the album by Bellamy). It’s an ambitious track and definitely showcases the musicianship of Bellamy, Howard, and Wolstenholme. Bellamy’s virtuosity on the guitar and piano, Dom Howard’s turn-on-a-dime drumming, and Wolstenholme’s masterful “is-that-a-bass-or-a-guitar” bass playing shine through on this odd duck of a track.
Again, Muse has never been subtle. And that’s not the point. They’re not trying to be. They’re also not trying to be camp with their over-the-top conspiracy theories. One of their tours was literally called H.A.A.R.P., for pete’s sake. Drones still does what a Muse album is supposed to do: entertain with bombastic music (seriously, how can that much sound come out of three people?) and paranoid lyrics. And it does that well.