Some bands are unfairly maligned by certain music communities, and I think Muse is one of those. They have been around since 1994, and they still have the original lineup: Matt Bellamy on lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, and piano; Dominic Howard on drums and percussions; and Chris Wolstenholme on bass guitar and backing vocals. How many bands can say the same? Well, Muse is back with Will of the People, which released on August 26th. I think it might be my favorite album from them since Absolution.
I’ve been a fan of Muse from a distance for about 20 years. I don’t talk about them much, mainly because they’ve achieved ridiculous success. They don’t need my help, or anyone’s. I was especially a fan of Showbiz, Absolution, and Black Holes and Revelations back in the day, and I liked The 2nd Law and Simulation Theory more recently. They’ve never released a bad album, in my opinion, just ones I like better than others.
In my view, the band has had to balance two fan groups: alternative rock fans that were with them originally, and then the legion of fans they gained through their prominent placement in the Twilight movies. That would have been after Black Holes and Revelations, and that is when the biggest change in sound took place, in my estimation. For what it’s worth, I think they have maintained both types of fans remarkably well, balancing engaging rock music with emotional and poetic cues.
For Will of the People, the band has eased back on the 80s themes of Simulation Theory. Instead, this album is probably the heaviest music they’ve produced yet, but they contrast it with some truly quirky and fun ideas that really deliver. This album has all the character, Queen and Radiohead influence, and technical prowess that you expect from Muse, and thus I cannot fault them.
Right out the gate, though, I will say that I don’t particularly like the opener or the closer, which is kinda strange. The opener is the title track, and it feels a little too stadium rock-esque, a little too Queen perhaps (I’ve never liked that band), and maybe a little stilted in its flow. The closer, “We Are Fucking Fucked”, is something I may have liked in my teens; but, as an adult, it feels a little cheap. Those are the only reservations I have about the songs on this album.
There are some fantastic songs here. “Compliance” with its fetching keys and fun personality is an instant favorite. “Won’t Stand Down” is a heavier track with clear progressive qualities and a terrific closing that really gets my blood pumping. “Ghosts (How Can I Move On)” is a high quality ballad with haunting touches and excellent lyrics.
The second half of the album may be the better half, though. First off, it has “You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween”, a song worth the price of the album by itself. This quirky, organ-driven, winding track is equal parts thriller, splash, and darkness. I absolutely love it. Next comes “Kill or Be Killed”, which is just as good, though definitely more serious. It is, perhaps, the heaviest song many Muse fans will have ever heard. I mean, it’s pretty damn heavy, even for someone who listens to metal of all stripes regularly, and the musicianship is off the charts. I’ve been cranking it with the windows down.
“Verona” and “Euphoria” are both great tunes, too. “Verona” has this shoegaze-y thing going on in the background, and it really lends itself to the vocal melodies. It is beautifully wrought. “Euphoria” is a great song. I would point out, though, that it sounds almost identical to “Endlessly” on the Absolution album. I think I can even sing the lyrics pretty easily to this, so the tune hasn’t changed much. I don’t have a problem with this, as I love the melody.
In the end, Muse is a successful band for a good reason. They don’t deserve to be denigrated for making it, so to speak. And Will of the People shows us exactly why they have become a household name: this album has a little bit of everything for everyone, from heavy riffs to electronic soundscapes to poetic vocal delivery. They really know how to construct something attractive and tightly written, and I applaud them for that.
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