- 15 Nov 18
Art-rock maestros make barnstorming return.
After watching Cronenberg's The Fly one evening, I was inspired to build myself one of those matter transporter devices. The blueprints were readily available on the internet, so with a lot of Lego, lollipop sticks, wire and some batteries, I made swift progress. As a first test, I popped Queen and Radiohead into Pod A and pressed the button.
From the other pod slouched a figure that had Thom Yorke's face, Freddie Mercury's body and Brian May's hair. Complete failure. On my second attempt, I managed to distill the pomp and bombast of the former and the nervy angst of the latter. Placing the products in the first pod, once again I pressed the button and waited. Eureka! I'd done it.
Enough of this folderol. That was my long-winded attempt to summarise Muse. Add in a bit of Prince - it doesn't matter which bit, as he was riddled with The Funk - and we're getting even closer. Muse have been plying their brand of grandiose rock for almost 25 years and it never gets old. They skilfully wed metal, classical, electronica and funk to form a heady melange that is pure Muse. They are what arenas were built for and consistently give excessive bang-for-the-buck. With change.
In interviews leading up to the recording of Simulation Theory, Matt Bellamy stated that he wanted the album to be different. I have to declare that in my opinion Muse haven't succeeded in this aim. Not that I'm complaining. The tectonic slabs of bass wedded to pyroclastic drums and Bellamy's brain-drilling guitars are all in place. They've returned to the synth-drenched production they'd been exploring before Drones' brief revisionism. Amidst all this Sturm und Drang, it's easy to sideline Bellamy's gloriously histrionic vocals.
He's capable of a variety of styles - from tender whisper to throaty growl and angelic falsetto - while perfectly inhabiting the structure of the track. The producer's chair was shared by the band and Rich Costey, who they worked with previously on Absolution and Black Holes And Revelations. Additional production on selected tracks comes courtesy of Mike Elizondo, Timbaland and Shellback.
No strangers to apocalyptic/dystopian sci-fi concepts, on Simulation Theory, Muse explore themes of virtual reality and dehumanisation in typically melodramatic fashion. They pile on the pomp on tracks like 'Dig Down' - the perfect set-closer with its gospel backing - while on the contrastingly austere and gentle 'Something Human', Bellamy cries for just that, while traversing a lonely motorway. 'Thought Contagion' features a Grand Guignol riff straight out of Phantom Of The Opera, while 'Propaganda' is an absolutely electrifying rocker. If alienation is this much fun, count me in.