Album Review: Muse, ‘Drones’
In an age of ever-increasing technological encroachment, it's both ironic and fitting that a corporate arena-rock band like Muse can openly address issues of institutionalized conformity. Of course, the English trio's seventh album serves up colossal hard rock anthems destined to flood the airwaves as a vehicle for the very conformity the band addresses in the concept that ties the new songs together; the album cover tells you what you need to know about this album's underlying messages about social control.
But even as Muse's lyrics delve further into government conspiracies and the dark forces behind them, the music gives the impression that, at heart at least, Muse still view themselves essentially as blues-rock riffmongers nursing big aspirations, blown up to juggernaut size. During the bridge of album opener "Psycho," for example, the band takes a moment to cop the iconic guitar lick from the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues," a kind of prototypical, almost primordially archetypal riff that you'd expect to hear from a bar band.
Alas, no bar could fit the gigantic arrangements on Drones. The album swells to bursting with stomping rockers and Filter-esque electro-stompers that, taken as a whole, tell the story of a protagonist asserting his autonomy against seemingly insurmountable forces that easily dwarf his power and size.
Perhaps most notably, Drones paints the picture of dystopian present rather than future. So the next time you hear one of these songs come on in the mall, the digital jukebox at your favorite bar, or the local sports arena, let those moments serve as a reminder that the grim realities that once seemed far off and distant have now arrived at our doorstep. But, if Muse have their way, at least you can pump your fist and play air guitar while you do so.