Muse’s latest album was reportedly set to dispense with some of the orchestral excesses of recent releases, which I thought was a shame as I loved their increasing madness. Thankfully, this is still one of their most insane albums yet.
Produced by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange, ‘Drones‘ is as big sounding as anything they’ve ever previously recorded with all of his trademark extravagances. I first bought into Lange productions nearly 40 years ago (Boomtown Rats and a one off XTC single), though as he moved into stadium MOR (Bryan Adams, Def Leppard and the fourth bestselling album of all time, AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’) it seemed unlikely his name would grace my music collection again, until Muse gave him the call.
Although Lange’s presence is notable from the opening drum beats the first track, ‘Dead Inside’, it’s soon clear that Muse bring the madness to proceedings. It’s the first hint that the warfare sung about on this album isn’t necessarily about battlefield war, but war in love (Bellamy has recently split from his movie star wife Kate Hudson).
‘Psycho‘ follows with all the sergeant major screaming and swearing that made the songs YouTube premiere such a thrill. Again, love is the first lyric, though the song has comic book military soldier brainwashing connotations, driven on by a heavy rock guitar riff and beefed up drums. It instantly filled me with that ‘Ah, Muse are back’ sensation.
‘Mercy‘ is much heavier in the military pictorial with other recurring themes like brainwashing, puppeteers of men, remote control killers… you know the usual stuff. Yet there are always hints that something much closer to home is the real subject matter. By the time I reached ‘Home is the beginning, a killing field’ I really hoped Bellamy’s separation wasn’t as messy and painful as this all sounds.
Thankfully it’s all so over the top you just can’t help smiling, with Muse’s trademark treated backing vocals and filthy guitars. But you can’t bury Chris Wolstenholme’s bass though, remember Muse are a three way fighting machine and it constantly sounds as if all three main instruments are fighting to be heard the most, which is certainly no bad thing.
After the Queen-esque ‘JFK‘ and ‘Revolt‘ the album already seems to come to a close with ‘Aftermath‘ – a solider returns from war, an errant lover coming home. Before you get the chance to settle ‘The Globalist‘ begins. A ten minute opera comprised of many parts, starting with a spaghetti western whistled intro and ending with an ignition of drums. The final track, ‘Drones‘ is based on ‘Sanctus and Benedictus’ by 16th century Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, this along with the mini rock opera of the preceding track make the most bizarre point of any Muse album yet.
At this point in their career Muse have never made a duff album in my opinion. It’s not their best album, whatever it’s actually about, it’s grand in every way. Where do they go from here? Jeff Wayne is probably sitting by the phone right now…..
Author: Ian, Romford store