MUSE - DRONES (WARNER BROS.)
Waking Up The Neighbours. That's the best album Mutt Lange has produced in the last 25 years. Muse's own artistic peak was Absolution in 2003. For some reason, both parties decided that this collaboration was what each had been missing in the interim. In addition, this dream team somehow deduced that both The Resistance and The 2nd Law didn't go far enough in their base-level assimilation of global paranoia, and what the new record actually needed was more bombast to go with it.
What emerges is today's equivalent of The Wall, had it been made by a 13-year-old with only Royal Blood and Depeche Mode for reference and whose only experience of dystopia was The Running Man. It's so completely bereft of depth and insightful social commentary that it deserves to rank among the great comedy albums of all time. Nearly everything here is funny: Matt Bellamy's none-less-threatening wail of your ass belongs to me, the robotic sound effects that permeate everything (it's consistency, man) and, in particular, the artwork designed by someone on work experience at Warner Bros. Or possibly Matt Mahurin.
Unfortunately, it's also incredibly ill-judged. Listening to a millionaire take veiled cheap shots at his millionaire ex-fiancée by aligning his marital struggle with the use of drones to kill the poor, brainwashed masses is unbelievable in its crassness. Complain all you like that the lyrics shouldn't matter that much, but it's a fucking concept album. Of course they matter.
Which brings us to the music. The best moment on the record is the beginning of 'Aftermath,' before Bellamy starts singing. The guitar figure is a series of lovely little runs around the chord progression and synth strings forge a simple, touching path above it. It finally makes you feel something. However, it's soon apparent that it's doing this by sounding exactly like Pink Floyd. Of course, true to form, the remaining songs offer up some comedy Ennio Morricone whistling, emotionless guitar riffs that go absolutely nowhere and an a cappella chorus of a thousand Bellamies. Any goodwill absorbed from those earlier seconds has now been replaced by a disdain so overwhelming that it actually clouds your entire day.
I've been struggling for an eloquent way to describe the guitar parts on this record, so often a highlight of Muse's output, but for the life of me I can't think of anything more apt than pedestrian. Bellamy is a wonderfully inventive guitarist, and the glorious bludgeoning on 'Stockholm Syndrome' and 'The Small Print' remains as powerful as ever. So why, time and time again on Drones, are we reduced to Fisher Price Rage Against the Machine and tossed-off approximations of earlier Muse records? Dom Howard also sounds like he's sleeping through the entire thing, so uninspired is his input. I don't know where Chris Wolstenholme was during recording, but it doesn't appear that he even bothered to make the trip to Mutt's. Very wise.
Again struggling for words, I'll simply state that it isn't good enough. By way of justification, every time the LP is over I'm left with Marilyn Manson's 'Beautiful People' in my head. Make of that what you will. There's no culture left to love and cherish, wails Bellamy on 'The Globalist,' and it's the only time I agree with anything he says on the whole LP.
I've brought this upon myself, admittedly, and you could quite rightly argue that it's too easy to have a pop at Muse for being Muse. They've long chased the ridiculous crown left behind in the wake of Freddie Mercury's passing, and that in itself is an unobtainable prize. But for all its hilarity-inducing anachronism, Drones ultimately just makes me very sad. I don't believe for one second that anyone will listen to this and be inspired to form a band. It doesn't even sound like it was created by a band. There's a drones joke to be made there, but after so much time spent enduring this album, I have neither the energy nor the inclination to write it.