Rock’s most eccentric band is at it again
It has now been two decades since Muse led the rock world in grandiose-ness. The Teigenmouth, Devonshire, England crew began by making alternative rock with slightly eclectic flourishes, but as their career progressed they began to add spacey electronics, sweeping strings and over-the-top production to become the genre’s main experimenters in an age where rock largely chose to stay in a more basic bubble. It was 2009’s The Resistance, with its far-reaching themes about government oppression and civil uprising that saw the band attempt to emulate U2’s global footprint. Their following releases have been just as majestic, the most recent of which is 2018’s Simulation Theory.
After several albums of this stadium production, the band’s 2015 release, Drones, reverted to more of a straightforward rock sound. Simulation Theory, in comparison, brings synths back into the picture to create an eerie, 1980s sound. Considering the fact that the album’s main lyrical idea is the hypothesis that everything around us is merely a simulation (a la The Matrix), this all fits like a glove. Matt Bellamy’s vocals, especially his distinct falsetto, have always been slightly cryptic and reminiscent of science fiction in a way, so he’s really the only one able to croon over these songs. His guitar playing, though less prevalent, isn’t any less effective.
The album’s opener, “Algorithm,” slowly builds from an eerie electronic drumbeat into a sly and symphonic start. “Dark Side” is next, and it brings disco into the simulation party. And for those fans craving guitar, “Pressure” adds just that right after.
The album’s best tracks, though, are the ones moving towards the back half of the album. In a shocking twist, “Something Human” adds a rare acoustic guitar. “Break It To Me” brings in a surprisingly effective seven-stringed groove, and the album’s best track “Get Up And Fight” is a little bit of everything: synth-pop verses, a tremendous stadium-ready chorus and the most impressive high notes at the end. Bassist Christopher Wolstenholme and drummer Dominic Howard tie everything together with airtight rhythm, as they always have.
For any big fans of dystopian science fiction or ’80s music, Simulation Theory is a musical wet dream. For everyone else though, it’s just a fun and entertaining listen that makes you think just a little, but not enough to ruin the music itself.