Release Date: Jun 9, 2015
Record label: Warner Bros.
Genre(s): Britpop, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Grunge, Neo-Prog, Prog-Rock
In April 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed a group of U.S. newspaper publishers on the value of a free press in a world threatened by "a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy," a government by "intimidation instead of free choice" where "dissenters are silenced, not praised." He didn't mention communism by name; he didn't have to. The British power trio Muse sample Kennedy's speech in the middle of their seventh studio album, Drones.
Muse, and Matt Bellamy in particular, make no bones about Drones: their seventh album is political through and through, a bold statement concerning the dehumanization of modern warfare. As Muse is not a subtle band -- any suspicion they were is erased by the artwork depicting a hand controlling the joystick of an office drone controlling a joystick directing drones -- it's hard to avoid their conclusion that war is bad, but this inclination to write everything in bold, italicized capital letters is an asset when it comes to music, particularly here where they've teamed with legendary hard rock producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange. Always a sucker for oversized guitar riffs and bigger drums, Lange also allows the trio to indulge in a bit of Floydian fantasies -- the made-to-order dialogue of "Drill Sergeant" is straight out of The Wall -- but he spends much of Drone sharpening Muse's synthesis of every arena rock idea ever essayed.
Imagine eating a gigantic chocolate cake in one sitting. At first, it takes delicious. “Oh my god, the CHOCOLATE! The SPONGE! The BUTTERCREAM!” It’s still good after a few more mouthfuls. However, the more you eat, the more uncomfortable you feel, and by the end you just want it to go away due to how sick it’s made you feel.
Skimming through the rock stratosphere carrying a riff payload capable of levelling entire districts, Muse drift further off radar. Down on earth, the stage is set for the uprising they foresaw back on 2009’s ‘The Resistance’ – protest marches are already descending on Whitehall to rally against another five years of Conservative government. But instead Matt Bellamy’s eyes are to the skies, squinting at his next obsession: drone warfare.The 36-year-old’s new fascination with the backroom soldiers who “kill by remote control”, might mark a frustrating shift away from immediate, tangible issues, but when you take into account Muse’s own story arc, it’s an unavoidable one.
Since Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and Iron Man, hard rock has enjoyed warily eyeing the interface between robotics and warfare, themes generally untouched by the more house-trained species of pop music. For their seventh album, Teignmouth trio Muse have grasped this paranoid sub-genre with both hands, riffing on a tendency already glimpsed on albums such as 2009’s The Resistance and 2003’s Absolution. Never a band to shy away from a prog-rock statement, Muse’s Drones is a concept album about remote killing machines, dehumanised drones in thrall to authority – psychotic soldiers, and the rest of us – and the possibility of sedition through love.
With über-producer Mutt Lange on board, have the Teignmouth trio made their own Back In Black? It was perhaps inevitable, after more than a decade of intergalactic ambition and stadium-rocking space-metal spectacle, that Muse would eventually crash back down to Earth. Most big bands make their equivalent of Pink Floyd’s The Wall at some point, and Matthew Bellamy has now delivered his. A coldly impersonal concept album recorded in the depths of a personal crisis, Drones starts off uncomfortably numb, and finishes up apocalyptically bleak.
“Back to basics” is how Muse drummer Dom Howard has described their seventh album. Of course, this being Muse, “basics” means a concept album about a soldier’s indoctrination into remote-controlled warfare, complete with samples of JFK speeches and artwork that King Crimson might have declared a bit much. Still, you can see what Howard means: this is the band’s most focused work in a decade, ditching the genre walkabout of 2012’s The 2nd Law for a more polished variant of their early, unkempt sound: the doomy chug of The Handler could have been on Origin of Symmetry, while Reapers begins with frantic finger-tapping and ends with a monumentally riffy breakdown.
Is it fair to rife through an artist's back catalogue and do the whole, 'Hey they used to sound like this, how do they now sound like this?' thing? Well, no, not really, especially when your chosen subject makes a conscientious effort to mix things up along the way. Plus, y'know, people get older and change and all that. That said, it'd be interesting to catch the insta-reactions of Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry-era Muse to the Devon trio's recent output.
Go ahead and make fun of Muse—they’ve seen all your insults of “prog-rock pretentiousness” and raised you a bombastic concept album about WWIII. What’s funny is that Drones, the British trio’s seventh LP, was fashioned as a return to simplicity, a chance to “reconnect and remind [themselves] of just the basics of who [they] are,” following the electro-symphonic sprawl of their last two albums, 2009’s The Resistance and 2012’s The 2nd Law. But Muse’s version of “stripped down” is most bands’ version of “orgiastic”: Across 52 winding minutes, frontman Matt Bellamy shrieks and croons about a brainwashed soldier—a human drone—rising up to destroy the world himself.
The general agreement among Muse faithful, a particularly fervent (and particularly British) subset of rock fans, is that Matthew Bellamy and co. own the greatest live concert experience of the 21st century. A simple mention of Glastonbury ‘04, Wembley Stadium ‘07, or any number of bootlegged gigs is all you’ll need to send them into fits of prog-inspired rapture.
The Devon, England trio Muse had a good thing going for awhile. Then, somewhere along the way, just before 2009’s The Resistance, frontman Matt Bellamy stumbled upon the writings of George Orwell. Now, Bellamy could have already been familiar with Orwell’s writing; in fact, it’s likely. But beginning with The Resistance, especially its closing tripartite “symphony” entitled “Exogenesis”, Muse’s lyrical directive took on a tone not unlike that of a Glenn Beck broadcast.
Sometime after Muse released The 2nd Law — their nose-thumbing 2012 collection of dubstep dalliances, chopped vocal debris, and pure hubris — singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy had some second thoughts. “It was the first time we actually realized, ‘This is too far,'” he admitted in an interview with Q Magazine. But Muse’s brilliance, when they have been brilliant, is a result of their willingness to embrace both the absurd and the absurdly ambitious.
Like their prog-pop predecessors Rush, Queensrÿche, and Pink Floyd, Muse will never be cool, but their subject matter will always be relevant—they only deal in current events that speak to timeless pathologies of the human condition. The Resistance raged against any and all machines while the environmentally conscious The 2nd Law made global warming appear to be yet another shadow government conspiracy rather than scientific fact. Likewise, Drones is not a critique of American military strategy, but rather, "the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors.
I've only got 150 words/bullets and there are a lot of problems with this album/fish in this barrel. Let's start with that artwork: look at it. Stare at it for 53 minutes. Awful as it is, you'll have a more enjoyable 53 minutes doing that than you will listening to the album itself..
There’s a trait within fiction writing known as Flanderisation, whereby a particular facet of a character is gradually exaggerated over time, until they become a grotesque parody of their former selves. It’s named, of course, after The Simpsons’ Ned Flanders who, over the years, has gone from a relatively normal neighbour, for whom religion was a part of their life, to an evangelical zealot, bordering on fundamentalism. When Muse released their debut album, Showbiz, in 1999, they were an above-average trio of Radiohead devotees with slightly proggy leanings.
British rock trio Muse has got the dehumanizing qualities of modern warfare and technology on its mind on its seventh album, “Drones. ” Frontman Matt Bellamy (above) has said that the album was partly inspired by reading UMass-Dartmouth professor Dr. Brian Glyn Williams’s book “Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda.