Britain’s most bombastic rock band returns with a track that could shatter the arch of Wembley Stadium and flatten a festival in seconds, but underneath the crude furore there’s a powerful and poignant message.
It’s fair to say that the past 10 years have been a bit of a rollercoaster for die-hard Muse fans. Since the trio’s universally acclaimed ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ the quality of albums has taken a minor dip, with ‘The Resistance’ and in particular ‘The 2nd Law’ polarizing even the most faithful fans. Personally I don’t think Muse have released a bad album in their career: parts of the last two albums have grated at times, such as the somewhat underwhelming ‘Guiding Light’, or the absurdly kitsch ‘Panic Station’, but lead singer Matt Bellamy always has a trump card up his sleeve, whether the undeniably incredible ‘Exogenesis Symphony’ or the serenely beautiful and fractured ‘Isolated System’. Importantly, however the fanbase of the band (who were recently voted the best in the world by NME) have been growing disgruntled and the cure it appears is a return to basics.
The song itself is a punchy, aggressive and undeniably revolutionary number
The first thing to note about the new song ‘Psycho’ is that it’s not strictly speaking ‘new’ with the guitar riff having been used live by the band for a good 8 years. That being said the predictable accusations of apathy are completely unjustified, the riff is a huge fan favourite and some of Muse’s best songs (‘Take a Bow’, ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Hurricanes’) have borrowed components from the band’s incredible live shows. The song itself is a punchy, aggressive and undeniably revolutionary number: the intro features a voiceover of a General barking commands at a soldier, his ‘human drone’ and the recurring expletives used puts justification to Bellamy’s prior “too offensive for radio” comments on Twitter. Considering the 40 minutes I spent editing a ‘radio-friendly’ version of the song for RaW, I can appreciate that more than most. As the general barks “Your ass belongs to me now” the classic Muse riff, that once served as a live outro for ‘Stockholm Syndrome’, kicks in and brings with it some gloriously nostalgic vibes form the days of ‘Origin of Symmetry’ and ‘Absolution’. “Love will get you nowhere, you are on your own, lost on your own” Bellamy growls in a style similar to ‘Uprising’ before “I’m gonna make you, a fucking psycho”. Fans of 1984 will notice the very Orwellian feel to the General in the music video, channelling a very Big-Brother-esque demeanour with his almost transcendent power. This is most likely a nod to Bellamy’s fondness for the dystopian novel, which inspired large parts of ‘The Resistance’.
Muse are not a particularly subtle band and this release follows the template of grandiose that we’ve grown to expect from them: heavy distorted guitar riffs from Matt Bellamy, crackling bass from the inspired Chris Wolstenholme and tribal drums from Dominic Howard. It is not the most thoughtful piece of lyrical writing you’ll hear from Bellamy, but one that I feel is wholly appropriate given the meaning behind the song. This is, after all, a song about Military Generals who break down humans using psychological torture, becoming the album’s eponymous drones that are dispatched the areas of the middle-east to follow the political ideals of the nation they supposedly represent. It echoes William Golding’s ending to the Lord of the Flies with the darkness at the centre of a man’s heart and touches on something terrifying about the way killing is a means to a political end in the 21st century. That is what I feel Muse are representing here and in my view it is simply profound. Admittedly this is only a theory, based on the quotes coming from Bellamy and the build-up on the band’s Instagram but I have faith in the method behind the madness of ‘Psycho’.
It touches on something terrifying about the way killing is a means to a political end in the 21st century
Although the early reception to the single has been positive (64,000 likes on YouTube vs 1000 dislikes) there is a very noticeable and vocal minority of fans who feel this single is the latest in a string of disappointments from the group. You could write this off as the sort of ‘big band syndrome’ that Arctic Monkeys have suffered from of late, with supposed ‘real’ fans branding Turner an Americanised sell out and droning (appropriate) on about ‘the good old days’. To me this critical sect have some basis to their point, but fail to see the subtlety of what Bellamy is doing; he is a very thoughtful and intelligent lyricist, albeit one that you sometimes have to look beneath the surface of to fully appreciate.
Overall I’m delighted with the new direction for Muse and privileged to say I managed to get tickets to see them next week at a tiny venue in Manchester: The spoils of dedication to sitting in front of a computer screen desperately refreshing at 9:30 with debit card in hand, well worth the collateral damage of a 10am missed lecture. I’d give it a rating out of 10, but that is most likely the kind of uniform conformity that ‘Drones’ as an album is geared against, so let’s just say it’s very good. Very good indeed.