Review Summary: Oh my gooooddddddddddd!!!
Like a lot of people who grew up on Muse in their prime, I look at Black Holes & Revelations
, and Origin of Symmetry
with an immense fondness. I wouldn’t say I was ever a Muse fanatic, but I can acknowledge the rippling effect those records had on rock music in the noughties. Anything after Black Holes & Revelations
though and things start to get a little rocky, don’t they? For reasons I can only surmise, Matt and co. started focusing far less on what made them a global success and instead traded their fuzzy riffs in for a piano and some superficial electronics, laying down a symphonic Queen-wannabe ballad whenever they got the chance. Indeed, Muse veered so far away from the rock sphere, when they finally decided to centre their music around guitars again with 2015’s Drones
, they forgot how to write a good rock song with any lasting effect or meaning. That’s because even though a lot of people disliked The Resistance
and The 2nd Law
for the directions they took, Matt didn’t want to give up the pomp from those records. As such, from Drones
onwards, it sees the band awkwardly appropriating disparate styles with the hope something will stick with Matt’s cherished ballad format. It’s not that Drones
and Simulation Theory
are terrible records either (don’t get me wrong, they’re far from good), the problem is that they feel like compromises to the fans rather than actual attempts at making an LP with a firm direction in mind. Drones
was rock with a peppering of prog; Simulation Theory
had an artificial 80’s synth aesthetic; and now Will of the People
’s clincher is ostensibly metal. All of them have an interesting idea attached to them, but they’re marred and bogged down by Matt’s obstinate obsession with ballads and having them as the focal point.
For the last seven years now we’ve been getting a garbled, directionless mesh of ideas thrown at each record, but Will of the People
is a special case because it takes this incoherence to an impressively gargantuan degree. After spending a significant amount of time with Will of the People
, I managed to think of two pertinent analogies for the record and where the band is at now. The first is that Muse have now ascended to writing albums with the same schlocky genius of films like The Room, Super Mario Bros. and Troll 2; the second, Will of the People
shows vestiges of that episode of Friends where Ross reveals he was once a musician, and proceeds to unveil his talent on the keyboard. As it happens Will of the People
manages to fine-tune and amalgamate both of these analogies; assimilating the same level of cringe from Ross’ electronic bile with a trainwreck schlocky B-movie that has unfathomable ideas, but no refrain on how to make them coherent. Unhinged is the pithy way of putting it. The plot twist to this tale, however, is that Will of the People
is the best album they’ve made in sixteen years – I kid you not. Initially, I was so stunned by its messy presentations, I set out to fervently mock it, but the more I went back to it the more I found myself unironically cheering it on. ‘You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween’ is a perfect storm of Ross-styled electronic samples, Dracula’s organ, and a guitar solo that sounds like it was played by Brian May! And you know what? The insanity encased within gives it that Tommy Wiseau-lightning in a bottle, ultimately resulting in its own fantastical, awful genius. ‘Kill or Be Killed’ sounds like a homage to ‘Starlight’, only it has an alt-metal-chugging breakdown coupled with Bellamy’s compressed screams to make it pop out, and ‘Verona’ sounds like a track Darren Hayes would have written in his This Delicate Thing We’ve Made
Similarly, Matt Bellamy’s lyrics are laughably bad throughout the album, but when it comes to ‘We are F*cking F*cked’, you have to stand up and clap like Shia LaBeouf at the ridiculous spectacle unfolding in your very ears. It’s as if Bellamy is so acutely aware at this point, he’s just cranking the dial of insanity so hard he snaps the knob off in the process. Of course, it’s not all backhanded praises, because there are some moments on here that are legitimately decent. ‘Ghost (How Can I Move On)’ is a surprisingly smooth ballad with great melodies and, despite the sloppy mesh of styles, ‘Won’t Stand Down’ brings out a really solid rock track – but nevertheless, dear readers, I won’t pull the wool over your eyes, this album is mainly enjoyed for being the gloriously schlocky, over-exaggerated mess it is. This is the most I’ve enjoyed a Muse album since Black Holes & Revelations
, but at the same time it’s for all the wrong reasons. There are songs here that will be incredible to hear live, just because the album is so stark staring mad, but this feels like the final transition for Muse. Even though they haven’t made a decent rock album for sixteen years, there has still been an aura of respect for the band, given what they’ve contributed to rock music in the past. With Will of the People
though, they’ve crossed the Rubicon and are about to shed their venerable reputation for circus garb – able and willing to give you disposable music with crazy solos, goofy themes, and a non-regional arsenal of styles in which to serve them up.
With that, it all depends on your point of view. If you’re willing to let your hair down and have fun with what Will of the People
is offering you, you’ll have an absolute blast with this. Honestly, when you look at how the songs are composed, this record should be utterly irredeemable, and if you think too much about it, eventually the critical part of your brain will consume you. But like The Room, or Ross on his keyboard, the reality of the matter is this: it sucks, but there’s also something metaphysical and endearing about the execution, it’s hard not to enjoy it. With Muse, they have [un]intentionally touched on this form of art. For (mostly) all the wrong reasons, Will of the People
is the best, most engaging record to come from the band in sixteen years, and it’s quite possibly the most fun I’ll have with an album all year as well.