In an all too predictable state of affairs, Drones is a bit of a mess. Whilst it’s more focused than the bands’ previous effort The 2nd Law, it’s just as inconsistent and makes for a frustrating listen.
The middle section of the album contains some of Muse’s best material in almost a decade, and the guitar work from Matthew Bellamy is often a joy to listen to. Unfortunately though, as we approach the end of “Defector,” which is fun and hugely entertaining, we’re led into the bland, clichéd, and utterly boring misfortune of “Revolt,” and this sequence displays just how messy and incoherent the album is. And whilst Bellamy has never been a genuine social commentator, the lyrical content is ludicrous even by his standards, consequently damaging any political message the band are trying to convey.
Towards the end the album feels like Drones: The Musical, a giant rock opera created in complete satire. As I expected then, Drones is not the return to form I was looking for, but there’s certainly some fun to be had here — just so long as you don’t take it too seriously.
6 out of 10
In keeping with the album’s spirit of ham-fisted posturing, I look to Oscar Wilde for a profound and enlightening quote of some kind or other. ‘In this world,’ apparently, ‘there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.’ Therein lies the problem with Drones; it’s the full tragedy package.
A fraction of the album is really great — some of Muse’s best stuff for a decade — and everything else is really not. The first listen through left me rather upset, far more than if the whole album had been rubbish. It goes off the rails quite spectacularly. The opening third is nothing to write home about, the middle section is terrific, and the last twenty minutes dismantles world tyranny by channelling Grease, Les Mis, bad Pink Floyd, and the singing turrets in Portal 2.
I don’t doubt the band’s sincerity, and if the album prompts some listeners to read up on drone strikes and the military-industrial complex then that’s great, but the music itself is schizophrenic and oftentimes phenomenally daft. There are not many angles from which the album can be approached, either, because Bellamy and Co. take themselves so seriously.
The snarl that once made Muse so compelling is a scarce entity on Drones, though when it does rear its head it’s everything you want it to be. A fifteen minute period in the middle is stonking, and it’s potent enough to make the album worth a listen, and then another after you’ve calmed down.
5 out of 10
Muse’s latest release poses a dilemma when trying to concisely review it. The first third sounds like the standard of Muse album that we’ve heard from the last releases, and that I’ve largely not taken much notice of; the second third makes me forget all my cynicism as I enjoy some of the best output from the band in a long time, and then I’m brought back down to earth in despair and confusion as the final third takes over; incoherency, faux neoclassicism and all.
The instrumentation is certainly less interesting than some of their earlier releases, lyrics are notably more blatant and the influences are, in some cases, painfully obvious. Having said that, I will return for that second third, which, while it lasts, is made up of some truly great tracks which could certainly pass beside their earlier material. Those tracks prop this album up, and all I can hope is that this is a transition back the band’s roots, with their growing pains on show.
6 out of 10