Muse
Drones


3.0
good

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
June 6th, 2015 | 1081 replies


Release Date: 06/08/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Muse is back! Well, sort of…

For practically the last decade, Muse has just flat out missed the mark. The Resistance lacked any real rock aesthetics, favoring synthesizers and classical influences over electric guitars. That might have been okay, but they scaled all instrumental technicalities back to such a basic level that they were hardly recognizable as being even close to the same band. When they trekked even further off the map with The 2nd Law’s electronic fetish and pop that bordered on show tunes, many diehard fans lost hope of ever hearing another riff like the one from ‘Citizen Erased.’ It felt like they had become a lame cover version of themselves, and in the process they were subjected to mockery from nearly everyone who was alive when Origin of Symmetry was released. The reason I’m able to use the past tense, fortunately, is because the Muse we all grew up loving appears to finally be back. There’s riffs on this album that are more complex and energetic than even those on Absolution or Black Holes & Revelations, and Bellamy is once again singing his heart out in that shrieking falsetto that gives us goosebumps from time to time. Sure, Drones is ridiculous in its posturing: it’s a politically charged concept album that’s executed with the bravado of a revolutionist and the mindset of an eccentric conspiracy theorist…but where lyrics and common sense have often evaded this band, they’ve always made up for it through their ability to sound larger than life. All the time. This is no different, which in many ways makes Drones the perfect encapsulation of what Muse is all about. Even if it’s far from beating out the most celebrated releases in their catalogue, at this point it’s just invigorating to see that the template for success is back in place.

There’s no better place to start discussing Drones than right in the middle. Whereas the beginning and end of the album carries a lot of dead weight, it’s the stretch from ‘Reapers’ to ‘Defector’ that really keeps things afloat. ‘Reapers’ is a track unrivaled in its technical skill, commencing with a blistering electric guitar riff that’s followed by a rhythmic give-and-take between Bellamy’s epic falsetto and crunching breakdowns. “I don’t think I can handle the truth” he declares in between deceptively complex guitar work, before the song erupts into a chorus referencing the Drones album title, “You rule with lies and deceit / You kill by remote control / And the world is on your side.” There’s also a delectable guitar solo halfway through, which precedes a raucous outro that could make anyone believe that the end of the world is actually nigh. It’s not overstating anything to say that ‘Reapers’ belongs among the top five Muse songs ever written, and after a pair of safe and inoffensive albums, it’s exactly what they needed to prove that they still have a heartbeat. ‘The Handler’ is almost equally as impressive, with an assortment of buzz saw riffs and another highly memorable solo, all atop steady drumming and Bellamy’s howls of “I have been programmed to obey / I will execute your demands…I must dissociate from you / You will never own me again.” Conceptually, it’s a turning point in the storyline where his character – militarized and brainwashed – breaks away from “the system.” It’s not the most original idea in terms of lyrics, but more on that later.

‘JFK’ and ‘Defector’ also work extremely well together, which is an exciting prospect considering Muse’s penchant for useless preludes. Whereas ‘Drill Sergeant’ gives us an early taste of the band at their worst, ‘JFK’ combines thunderous clashes with a John F. Kennedy speech from 1961. Each clashing sound seems to emphasize a concern not only of what could be, but also of what probably already is : "infiltration instead of invasion, subversion instead of elections, intimidation instead of free choice." The execution of this song brings the fear of a conspiring, secretive government to life and is the perfect lead up to ‘Defector.’ Out of the best tracks on Drones, ‘Defector’ carries the most similarities to The Resistance. There’s Queen-ish choral outbursts, relatively average percussive contributions, and completely forgettable lyrics; however, an approximately forty-five second guitar solo that shifts the tempo and adds an almost space-rock feel to the song is never to be underestimated. It just goes to show how far Muse’s rock roots really do carry them, because this song without that gritty edge is little more than just a poppy, alt-rock influenced desperation shot at an anthem. Thanks to the band’s reclamation of its core strengths, ‘Defector’ successfully rounds out one hell of a midsection for Drones.

However, it’s the bookends that get Drones into trouble, featuring some of their weakest material right at the forefront and back end. Well, that’s not entirely true, as opener ‘Dead Inside’ – a track that has gathered some undue criticism to this point – kicks things off on the right foot. The song settles quickly into a groove, with reverberated electric guitars driving the rhythm until Bellamy’s (yet again) Queen-styled vocals pop up with shouts of “dead inside!” It’s a little gimmicky, but it will kill in the arenas. After ‘Dead Inside’, however, it’s a rapid fall from grace. The aforementioned prelude (and we're using that term loosely) ‘Drill Sergeant’ is absolutely nothing more than a drill sergeant shouting commands at someone who each time replies “aye, drill sergeant!” It reminds me a lot of Hoobastank’s ‘The Rules’, a fifty-two second track of brainwashing militaristic nonsense that serves no purpose. The futuristic oppressive government vibe would have been realized regardless, making the track an unnecessary and annoying detour. However, it’s the song that it leads up to – ‘Pyscho’ – that will truly draw the ire of anyone who appreciates quality lyrics. Matthew Bellamy will likely never hear the end of the “your ass belongs to me now” line, and to be honest he deserves that. The over-the-top frontman has never been a poet in the lyrical department, but he could have chosen better lines at every single juncture within this song. Being an artist gives you a lot of freedom, and here it feels like he’s just abusing that power. Perhaps Muse doesn’t even write their own lyrics – but regardless – whoever penned the words for this song and was then able to say “yeah, this will do” should be immediately fired and signed up for a mental competency evaluation. I wish I could tell you that there’s something redeeming about the track - really, I do - but since it follows a very basic structure and doesn’t progress at all, I simply can’t. The melody isn’t even that memorable. As it turns out, returning to rock n’ roll stardom isn’t like riding a bike, and ‘Psycho’ is a prime example of an absolutely laughable misfire from the band.

‘Mercy’ serves as something of a buffer between the horrid beginning and stellar middle, and it is appropriately mediocre. There’s a keyboard driven, synth-laden atmosphere that is reminiscent of ‘Starlight’, but unfortunately it repeats itself over and over again while the chorus is merely a lazy repetition of the song title (oh wait, Starlight does that too). Any disappointment stemming from ‘Mercy’ is relatively minor though compared to the unfulfilled promise of the ‘The Globalist’ – a ten minute epic that squanders all of its momentum with the most anticlimactic ending since the Exogenesis movement. Given ten minutes to do anything he wants to, you’d think that a multi-talented guy like Bellamy would employ his full arsenal. There could have been lush piano sections akin to ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes’ alongside insane riffing, space synths, and maybe even the apocalyptic horse gallops from ‘Knights of Cydonia.’ Unfortunately, we get none of those things, effectively placing 'The Globalist' in a now growing category of drab, lengthy movements from this group. With the painfully uninspired, U2 idolizing ‘Revolt’ and musically keen but wholly uninteresting ‘Aftermath’ thrown in there, the second half is easily the weakest part of the record. Thus, Drones goes out with a whimper as opposed to the thunderous bang that it deserves.

There’s no doubt that Drones contains flashes of Muse at their absolute best. Moments like ‘Reapers’ make me want to proclaim it to be an absolute triumph, but unfortunately there are just too many glaring (and at times mind boggling) lapses in judgment. If nothing else, Muse will definitely regain the respect of those who left them for dead following The Resistance and The 2nd Law. The fact that they’ve chosen to revitalize the rock sound that made them successful to begin with bodes well going forward, and even if Muse is only sort of back, they've still taken a vital step in the right direction. With a little luck, maybe the next Muse album will finally be the one that has them live up to their astronomical potential.



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user ratings (919)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
EvoHavok
June 6th 2015


7682 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review! Album's indeed quite a mixed bag, but I'm enjoying it.

Insurrection
June 6th 2015


24729 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

I can't have nice things

Digging: Dark Tranquillity - The Mind's I

TheSonomaDude
June 6th 2015


6829 Comments


The cover is pretty cool

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2015


18269 Comments


Sowing is such an apathetic alt./indie rock fan this year with these review scores

Digging: Amon Tobin - Fear In A Handful Of Dust

Tunaboy45
June 6th 2015


16734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Great review Sowing, still can't wait to listen to this.

Digging: PUP - Morbid Stuff

Toondude10
June 6th 2015


13827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was expect at least a -2.5 review from you Sowing XD

Great review as always. This really is an enjoyable record despite the flaws.



@TheSonomaDude http://i.imgur.com/i3CDdh0.gif

Digging: Devin Townsend - Empath

Tunaboy45
June 6th 2015


16734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Reapers and Dead Inside are probably my favourites from what I've heard so far.

Toondude10
June 6th 2015


13827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The Globalist is underrated imo. It's not perfect but I still think it's a great song nonetheless. Dead Inside is a real jam though agreed.

Tunaboy45
June 6th 2015


16734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I haven't heard The Globalist yet but I've heard pretty good things about it.

Toondude10
June 6th 2015


13827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Most people are saying it's a mixed bag actually.

Tunaboy45
June 6th 2015


16734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

A new Muse album has always been an event for me, I guess it's just because I'm a long time fan and they were one of the first bands I ever got into.

I didn't even hate The 2nd Law haha.

Insurrection
June 6th 2015


24729 Comments

Album Rating: 3.2

the globalist is great - it just promises a lot with its bridge section and it doesnt mesh well with the outro imo. the transition is legit horrendous

BigPleb
June 6th 2015


57836 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Won't bother with this, great rev though Sowing.



Muse sound like a self parody band at this point.

Sinternet
June 6th 2015


19112 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Mercy is absolutely awful and the only half-decent tracks here are Reapers and The Globalist.



Band has sucked since Black Holes anyway.

Digging: Marina - LOVE

Toondude10
June 6th 2015


13827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

shots fired!

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
June 6th 2015


4753 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Awesome review! This is better than I expected. The middle part is the best, I agree. I really dig Reapers, Defector and The Globalist. The rest ranges from meh to average Muse.

Digging: Fennesz - Agora

Tunaboy45
June 6th 2015


16734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'll never understand why some people think BHAR is a bad album. Sure it's not the best Muse album but bad? Not a chance.

SowingSeason
Moderator
June 6th 2015


30225 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6 | Sound Off

@Arcade/Insurrection: Apologies fellas. Andrew your review was excellent!



@Talons: haha I'm not apathetic, it's more like I'm actually giving realistic ratings instead of 4.5ing everything I like.



@Toon/Pleb/Insomniac: thanks for the kind words!



I know I criticized more than half this album, but I still enjoy it. I play it all the time in the car actually. Doesn't make much sense but w/e music is weird.





Digging: Glen Hansard - This Wild Willing

Tunaboy45
June 6th 2015


16734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Sometimes I'l rate an album I enjoy and listen to loads slightly lower than an album I've listened to less just because I know that one is better than the other. But yeah music is weird.

Tunaboy45
June 6th 2015


16734 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

come on guys you should be locking yourselves in your lofts and listening to some obscure shite on bandcamp



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