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Muse’s career has been a tale of two halves. From 1999’s Showbiz to 2006’s Black Holes & Revelations – a stretch that also included their best LPs in Origin of Symmetry and Absolution – the band was virtually unstoppable. They were one of the most technically skilled mainstream rock acts in the entire world, but they also demonstrated an uncanny knack for quality songwriting and memorable hooks. That formula made them irresistible to fans of guitar-driven alternative music, and they were able to garner even more widespread appeal thanks to their politically-driven lyrics, a Queen-like flair for the dramatic, and an ever-increasing commercial footprint.

Unfortunately, 2009’s The Resistance came along and things quickly fell apart. The album was a haphazard blend of new, poppier pursuits and attempts to pacify their original fanbase with half-baked riffs and watered down versions of previous hits. Some would argue that their target audience merely shifted, but in aiming for a more streamlined and profitable sound, they lost too much of their core appeal. In short, they chased the rabbit too far, and then continued for another decade after that: The 2nd Law was just as uneven of an experience, Drones – while marking a sincere attempt to return to their roots (‘Reapers’ and ‘The Handler’ are more than worthwhile) – still had two laughably bad songs for every tolerable one, and Simulation Theory – co-produced by Timbaland – finally pushed Muse to the point of being unrecognizeable as the same band that once wrote a song as brilliant as ‘Citizen Erased‘. Anyone who was still aboard Muse’s wild ride when this happened was likely not surprised by the the complete abandonment of their initial sound.

All of this serves to inform where Muse is in 2022, and why they finally seem to be hinting at a real return-to-form. They’ve long overplayed their hand with the whole electronic indie-pop/movie soundtrack shtick, and ‘Won’t Stand Down’ is a deafening statement of intent moving forward. The song is one of Muse’s heaviest in years, with a blistering riff and triumphant chorus about not backing down to your enemies. The overall aesthetic parallels their Black Holes & Revelations era, which is an exciting prospect following a string of albums that completely flopped with their diehard fans. The music video also hearkens back to the political paranoia of the band’s heyday – all good signs if we’re to infer what a forthcoming ninth LP might bring to the table.

Still, it’s best to pump the brakes before getting too carried away with the idea of a revitalized Muse. The aforementioned riffs on ‘Won’t Stand Down’ are certainly heavy, but they’re also very flat and fail to take the song anywhere interesting. The track’s instrumental breakdown is leaps and bounds ahead of anything from Simulation Theory, but it’s also far cry from some of the epic crescendos/solos we’ve seen the band deliver in the past. The verses are the least compelling aspect of the entire song, with Bellamy’s falsetto erring too close to the border of “whiny” which detracts from the song’s darker overtones.

With ‘Won’t Stand Down’, Muse finally seems to be in the right headspace again – but what the song represents (a return to heavier rock roots) far outweighs the actual merits of anything present on this single. If this is Muse highlighting their best new material, then they’re in trouble. Let’s not forget that Drones had some downright killer riffs/solos/breakdowns, and it still turned out to be an overly eclectic mess. If the forthcoming album takes the intent of ‘Won’t Stand Down’ and executes it far better – perhaps with less predictable songwriting, more varied guitar usage, and less annoying falsetto – then we could be in for one of those rare comeback albums that so few artists get to enjoy once they’ve deviated this far from their successful blueprint. ‘Won’t Stand Down’ is a fine mission statement, but as a standalone single, it doesn’t do enough to convince me that Muse is actually back.

Score: 3/5

Three stars | You can use this image for any purpose, but, p… | Flickr

Always wanted to rate singles on Sputnikmusic.com? Here's your chance to stick it to the man!

Disappointed that this isn't a new dating app implemented by mx? I can't help you...

Single is at least a bit interesting. Most excited I have been for Muse post 2nd Law. The riff at 1:13 sounds like it was pulled straight out of Parasite Eve by BMTH and then the following chorus sounds like a b-side from Sing for Absolution. Not mad about it. The verses are pretty damn lame though.

rly wanted that sput dating feature tbf
don't like the song but i am impressed and like that this many words can be written about it, nice

dont wanna punish them for refusing to write Space Dementia over and over
but I'd prefer that to whatever the he*k this is

Wooo awesome, new series!!!

Of all the ways to kick it off, ig a 3/5-rated Muse track would have to be the one lol. Band is doomed / site is saved

Wait we can review singles now? Someone hold my beer

Good service, thank you.

Yeah safe start with a definite 3/5 song.

Very nice.

No i won’t

cool series idea woop woop

fun series idea!

this is a modern muse song alright, it's pretty bad

Nice blog sow. The new single isn’t perfect but I think it’s a massive step in the right direction

Disappointed that this isn't a new dating app implemented by mx [2]

cool idea tho m/

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