Review Summary: While Drones is a step in the right direction for Muse, it still doesn’t quite live up to the band’s irrefutable potential.Drones
had everything going against it. It was following Muse’s most controversial and critically panned release The 2nd Law
, singles ‘Psycho’ and ‘Dead Inside’ nullified any and all credibility to ringleader Matthew Bellamy’s promise for a “return-to-roots” album, and let’s not forget that appalling excuse for cover art. All evidence pointed to Drones
being another collection of poppy, uninspired drivel drifting further and further away from the classically tinged, progressive laden alt rock template they so beautifully crafted on Origin of Symmetry
. However, while Drones
certainly is not a return-to-roots, it does overshadow their last two albums and inspires a modicum of hope for the band’s musical maturation sometime in the future.
Much like The 2nd Law
is woefully inconsistent. It’s very top-heavy – after ‘Defector’, the album loses steam and subsequently tapers off into cheesy rock ballad territory with a half-hearted attempt at an epic (which I’ll get into later). The latter half of Drones
is also home to one of the worst songs of the band’s career: ‘Revolt’, which sounds like an insipid bastard child of Mika
. ‘Psycho’ is the band’s attempt at a heavy guitar-driven song by taking a riff they wrote ages ago and playing it over and over again, plodding along at a slow tempo for five-and-a-half minutes. While the riff worked wonders as a fun jam session in their live shows, stretching it out into a full-length track is simply forced and lazy songwriting.
Many tracks draw comparisons to songs Muse have written in the past. ‘Dead Inside’ is reminiscent of ‘Undisclosed Desires’ and serves as the album’s token electronic track, ‘Mercy’ is a masquerading moniker for ‘Starlight 2.0’, and ‘Psycho’ is essentially the cousin of ‘Uprising’ with distorted guitars and loud feedback in place of sweeping synths and arpeggios. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Muse finally make use of their penchant for electro-pop on ‘Dead Inside’ by coalescing Matt’s signature croons over a Duran Duran
esque beat with an electric bridge section to boot. The verses of ‘Reapers’ sound like the Muse of old, and album centerpiece ‘The Handler’ allows room for each band member to shine as if it was recorded fresh off their Absolution
sessions, making for the best and most honest Muse song of the past decade.
is as subtle and putrid as its cover. I don’t even want to get into it, but lines like “your ass belongs to me now” and the fact that “drones” is said a hundred thousand times over the course of the album should paint a pretty clear picture of Matt’s lyrical integrity these days. Musically, the tail end of Drones
is where the album falters most. Pushing the ten-minute mark, you’d think ‘The Globalist’ was the band’s attempt at another ‘Exogenesis’ or the proper sequel to ‘Citizen Erased’ as the band alluded to. However most of the song’s progressions, as pleasantly subdued as they are, don’t do much to separate themselves from previous ballads off The Resistance
, and just when you think the song is going to kick it into high gear around the six-minute mark, it implodes with a terribly awkward transition into the most disappointing anti-climax on the album. While the passage is beautiful in its own right, it feels completely out of place after the massive build-up and sonic explosion the song promised moments earlier. The closing eponymous track is an acapella pseudo gospel outro that is admittedly comforting on a surface-level but because it follows such an unassuming stretch of tracks it comes across as hollow and perfunctory.
isn’t going to change the way you feel about Muse one way or another. If you hate their other works, you will most definitely hate this. If you stuck with the band this long, Drones
may be a pleasant surprise. What’s most upsetting about Drones
is that we have concrete proof Muse are still capable of writing catchy, energetic alt rock, but instead they chose the easy route by rehashing old melodies and tepid pop choruses for a good chunk of the album’s runtime. It’s not so much a complaint of Drones
not being good enough because it is a largely enjoyable listen and certainly a step in the right direction for the band. Rather, it’s a matter of Muse once again failing to reach their irrefutable potential to make another consistently great album.