If Prince, Queen, Radiohead, Depeche Mode and The Cure had a baby, whilst playing Ready Player One it would sound something like this. Now I have to admit, that Muse’s new album Simulation Theory doesn’t quite live up to that standing. It tries nobly to incorporate every sinew, groove, style, tricks and licks within the almighty armoury possessed by the vocals and guitar of Matthew Bellamy, Bass of Christopher Wolstenholme and drums of Dominic Howard.
The album opens to big riffs, epic choruses and stabby 8 bit synths. Tracks ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Dark Side’ show us the Queen and Depeche Mode-isms from the start.
Fourth song ‘Propaganda’ signifies the essence of Prince being fused with the spirit of Muse, into the bubbling pot of grooves and licks at their disposal. It slinks and staggers, before a wonderful, loose and bluesy guitar takes us one way, before we are slapped back into the pseudo reality that exists within this album moments later.
‘Break It To Me’, whilst having many of the same tricks on display as all the others. It feels like one of the most original tracks on the album. Why? Mainly because I can’t liken it to anything without it being a reach. Which is not the case for all of the album
Now there’s no shame in the borrowing of ideas, or being inspired by other artists. I say that because a fair few of these songs’ sound like they were pulled up from anywhere in the back catalogues of the artists mentioned before. The song ‘Something Human’ sounds like the popular Erasure song ‘A little Respect’. It’s almost the exact same cadence and chord progression. The song itself, sounding like a peon to the toils of being away on tour and only connecting with people digitally.
I’m not going to dive into the lyrics. As the message from Muse has been fairly consistent: Humanity is flawed, there are subversive and shadowy powers at large, let’s have a talk about it and work together.
‘Thought Contagion’ is another great song I will go back to on this album. It’s beautiful textures make it stand out for me. Once again, I really like this side of Muse. It’s progressive, but balanced by vision instead of feeling over run by it. The guitar/keytar solo at the end is another brilliant touch.
Now I guess my problem with this album and Muse in general, is that with all there virtuosity, the song structures are rather repetitive. With most tracks being in the 3 – 4 minute range, you can predict the placing of the breakdown, the build up, the drop and the switch, on every song
My other gripe, is that ever since Butterflies and Hurricanes, I have allowed Matt to get away with some grand histrionics with his Prince and Queen fantasies. Yet just like the 2009 Album ‘ The resistance’. It’s all just a bit over done for my liking.
The groove on ‘Dig Down’ is nuts, starting on an unexpected soul dubstep vibe. With much dexterity; falsetto trills, people empowerment, the gospel choir for that epic bridge and chorus, strings and synths all find a way to co- exist on here without getting in each others way. Oh don’t you worry, there’s some serious axe swinging on here from Matt too.
As the final track ‘Void’ signifies the end of the video game. Out of its digitised world, stumbles said child of miraculous conception, perhaps to fully spread its wings in an immense live show?
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