I have been a pwoper Muser for a long time, and I have to admit I was a bit nervous about their new album. The singles they have released have given me mixed feelings: I went absolutely mental after the first sounds of Psycho, got really disappointed and nervous after hearing Dead Inside, was not that impressed by Mercy, got a little uplifted and hopeful after hearing Reapers, got ecstatic when I heard The Handler, and sort of liked Defector but wasn’t overly enthusiastic. The album as a whole was no different. I think they gave me the biggest music-shock of my entire life… After listening to their newest album Drones a few minutes ago, I am mostly amused and confused.
The album is once again driven by a story. Matt has said that “To me, ‘Drones’ are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones. This album explores 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.” Although there is a specific background story, I can hear the not so subtle hints of Matt’s break-up with Kate on the album, and it is not a very friendly album for Kate. Matt has said that he dislikes the Hollywood lifestyle, which Kate leads, and that has been one of the reasons for breaking up their engagement. When the album talks about being dead inside, being free from inter-societies, and home becoming a killing field, it is hard not to connect some dots.
The opener, Dead Inside, grew on me quite slowly. Some fans were thrilled to hear a new Undisclosed Desires and others (like me for example) started to lose hope to ever hear Muse that really goes under your skin. The drum-based songs are not my favorite, but luckily Dead Inside has some great guitar parts as well, and the message of the song is quite powerful.
Psycho is intro-d in by a drill sergeant and a rookie yelling (which continues in the song itself). For me the whole song is a huge wink for the fanbase. First of all, using a riff they have been playing live forever as an outro for Stockholm Syndrome. Secondly, the lyrics: “Your ass belongs to me now”. No other band can do that without pissing a lot of people off. For me, it’s just hilarious, and makes me feel like a fresh Muser once more. The song gave me hope after The 2nd Law, which is probably my least favorite Muse album so far.
Mercy, the third song on the album, first reminded me of U2 just like some of my least favorite songs on The 2nd Law. I have nothing against U2, but Muse have such a distinctive sound of their own, and they don’t need to copy anyone. Mercy was compared to Starlight by some fans. I wouldn’t make that comparison, but there are some old Muse sounds from the Black Holes and Revelations -era.
Reapers has an 80’s feel to it. The beginning really reminds me of Footloose, but the mood changes, and there are some fantastic guitar bits. Matt is really putting it out there. The outro gives the song a feel of a live performance. It is a bit weird to write an outro like that to include on the album, but I am not complaining! There is a funny bit repeated throughout the song where a man screams “drones”, and a robot voice answers what sounds like “huuuman”, but is “killed by”. It’s like the man screams and the drones answer. It’s funny…
The fifth song, The Handler, is a pwoper Muse song that has great mood, guitar, and chill-worthy vocals. In addition to Psycho, The Handler has the promised old Muse sound. It reminds me of Fury, Butterflies and Hurricanes, and Take a Bow. The Handler is absolutely one of the strongest songs on the album. Reading comments on fan pages on Facebook, it seems to be the favorite song on Drones for the majority of Musers.
Defector is preceded by an intro which is a speech by JFK. The melody and mood of the intro reminds me of Resistance, and Invincible. It’s quite lovely. Defector is not my favorite song, but it’s still one of the best songs on the album. It somehow makes me laugh, because I keep imagining Matt jamming and singing “I’m free-e-e-e”. I also feel strong fan-flashbacks when Matt says “bwoken”. The song has some weird lyrics like “Your blood is blue/ and your mind’s turned green/ and your belly is all yellow”. The blood and mind I get, but why is the belly yellow? I have written in my notes that the song is like an upbeat sequel to Uprising when the suppressors have been defeated.
The first unheard song, Revolt is the beginning of a very confusing second half of the album. It has an 80’s feel, and some U2-like qualities (especially the chorus). There is a synth on the background that for some reason reminds me of The Final Countdown. The song is strangely upbeat (musically and lyriclly), and as a whole very un-Musey. I myself love melancholy in music, so this is definitely not one of my favorites.
Aftermath is the most beautiful song on the album. It is stripped down, and I love the sampling in the beginning (monks singing). The song has a soaring synth, and amazing guitar parts. The song makes you stop and listen (and maybe cry a little). Lyrically it reminds me of Follow Me. Another un-Musey song, but in a good way.
A massive song, The Globalist, begins with a promising cowboy whistle that makes you wish for another Knights of Cydonia, and wait for an explosion, which does come eventually but not in a scale that would blow your mind. The song changes constantly which reminds me of Queen’s ability to change style inside a song. Parts of the song remind me of Forced In, Resistance, and Sing for Absolution. Other parts remind me of United States of Eurasia, Explorers, Neutron Star Collision, and Butterflies and Hurricanes. It is like an ode to all of their previous albums, and it is a shame that the ending falls a little flat after eight minutes of greatness.
The last song, Drones, is so confusing that I’ll just write my immediate thoughts which I wrote down while listening to the song: “Matt has been to church? At Christmas?? Next Christmas I’ll sing this instead of carols: “Killed by drones”. This has to be the most confusing Muse song in existence… “Amen”?! WTF…” When the song ended I just walked around my apartment repeating what, WHAT, whaat. I can’t even describe the song, you have to hear it yourselves…
A while back I saw a picture of a tomb stone with “drones killed the fandom” written on it, because Matt had tweeted “new album killing it #MuseDrones”. I started to wonder whether the writing on the stone meant that the album is so good that fans die of eargasms or that it will divide the fandom, and thus kill it? After listening to the album myself, I really don’t know what is going to happen next. Half of it is fantastic, but the rest confuses me so much. Muse promised when they started to make the album that they would return to their roots and provide us with songs comparable for example to Origin of Symmetry. Most of the comparisons I can make are to the three previous albums: Black Holes and Revelations, The Resistance, and The 2nd Law. I’m sure many fans are very disappointed.
All in all, I can say that I like most of the album. It is not very coherent, but there are parts that made me say I love Muse once again. The Globalist is fantastic (forgetting the bad ending), but The Handler, Psycho, Reapers, and Aftermath are the strongest songs on the album. Muse were meant to provide a more stripped down album and maybe they did, but how much can you strip down Muse in the end anyway? I think they were faithful to their style of shocking a shitload of people while providing a few great songs along the way.
Drones on Spotify.