Muse has always been a band with larger than life messages, especially when lead singer Matt Bellamy's imagination runs wild. Monday’s release of the band’s seventh album Drones stays true to Muse’s innovative style but listening quickly becomes a tedious endeavor.
In the band’s early days, its music addressed smaller issues, such as social alienation and acceptance. But, over time, Muse broadened its perspective, switching focus to political corruption, chaos and theology. Bellamy used science fiction as his inspiration for this album by incorporating what he calls a “Drone,” or a person who has been brainwashed.
Drones is a concept album that tells the story of a character who loses hope during the opening song "Dead Inside," and finds him or herself vulnerable to mind control in "Psycho" and "Reapers." As the album continues, the protagonist realizes the situation and chooses to become a "Defector," and "Revolt" against the control.
Although the imagination and creativity is impressive, Drones’ messages are far from engaging and relatable. Muse used science fiction themes in Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations to success, but Drones fails to maintain the quality of these previous releases.
Each track, specifically those of "Mercy," "Defector" and the two short skits between songs, draws the listener in and commands a thorough examination of the music. Upon a closer look, however, the listener uncovers the album’s glaring flaws in composition.
Lyrically, Bellamy’s words trip over themselves at least once every song. He tends to ramble, and, although his volcanic build-up of emotions is ever present, songs such as "The Globalist," where the protagonist starts his own nuclear powerhouse of a nation and destroys the rest of the world, lacks poeticism. The clunkiness is appalling as Bellamy sings, “You can hide your true motives, To dismantle and destroy, Now you finally have good, I have given you good.”
But, because of the distracting instrumentation, most listeners won’t be able to focus on the lyrics. Every song is full of extra background noise, making each one a nuisance to sit through. It feels as if Muse spent a tenth of the time writing and recording as they did mixing and layering.
This is the first time since 2006 that Muse didn't include a symphony throughout the entire album, and it feels like there's a gaping hole. It proved foolish not to include classical strings on an album with such a large-picture message. A symphony would have given a moment of relief from the over-produced electro-pop sound.
The final track “Drones” lacks this layered instrumentation and ties back to the lessons of the record, but most listeners won’t make it this far.
The entire record is reminiscent of Pink Floyd's The Wall. But, unlike Floyd, Muse aggressively conveys its message, practically imposing it upon listeners. This style, along with the muddy instrumentation and lackluster lyrics combine to create a poor — sometimes painful — listening experience.
Genre: Alternative Rock