Muse fail to sound like more than an imitation of themselves on their latest, sci-fi inspired record ‘Simulation Theory’, Gemma Elgar reports
Simulation Theory marks the return of Muse, their first album since Drones back in 2015. Being a band with a backlog as strong as theirs, new music always has a level of expectation to live up to, and unfortunately, Simulation Theory doesn’t quite meet the bar. Whilst certain individual tracks like ‘Pressure’ and ‘The Dark Side’ stand well enough on their own, it is the album as a whole that lets it down, lacking a general sense of coherence. Tracks like ‘Get Up and Fight’ feel weak and clichéd, as well as ‘Break It To Me’, which comes across just a little too generically clubby in a way that doesn’t achieve that Muse originality that fans and critics praise so heavily. This leads to an ironic overall feeling that this is an album inspired by Muse, rather than an original work.
Whilst Matt Bellamy’s vocals still sound original and intriguing, he is often drowned out by the unnecessary levels of bass in tracks like ‘Propaganda’, and his voice seems to get lost in the mix of a number of songs. Unexpectedly, it is the more stripped-back songs on this album that are the most pleasant on the ears. Whilst songs like ‘Something Human’ are definitely different for the band, these simpler songs flatter Bellamy’s vocals best. As well as this, it is the minimalism of these songs that makes them more effective in terms of being well constructed, as they avoid the sensation of overcrowding that a lot of the others suffer from.
What makes the album more disappointing is the knowledge of Muse’s capability to produce LPs like Origins of Symmetry, as even the strongest tracks on the new album don’t compare to the band’s older music. If ‘Propaganda’ was pitched against ‘New Born’ in a battle, there would be no competition as to which would win.
All that being said, at least the intentions of the album are clear. The science-fiction influences are obvious, (but of course, this is Muse’s staple to begin with) right down to the album artwork, designed by Kyle Lambert, artist for Stranger Things. The album is about escapism and a retreat to the band’s childhoods, referencing a number of works from artists of the 1980s – there is a definite homage to George Michael in ‘Something Human’, and a sure influence of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ behind the video of ‘Thought Contagion’. However, clear intentions don’t secure a well put together album, and this raises the question of whether Muse have become too comfortable relying on the support of their reputation.
‘Simulation Theory’ is available now via Muse. Tickets to see Muse are available here.