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Review: 'Will of the People' by Muse

This article was originally published on Mxdwn

It wasn’t long ago that Muse was considered a top-tier rock act. As the once-hailed English outfit enters the second decade of its swift and steady decline, they remain stuck in character with the release of their ninth studio album, Will of the People. This is yet another installment in their well-established brand of infantile and reductive social commentary, something they’ve tried and failed at time and time again.

Just add it to the pile collecting dust in the attic.

They hit the ground running by embarrassing themselves from the get-go. The opening/title track would’ve been fine, perhaps even enjoyable, if it weren’t for one unnecessary glitch — their decision to echo Marilyn Manson’s chant from “The Beautiful People.” Why they chose to imitate the disgraced shock-rocker the same year as his very public fall from grace is unclear, though there’s no question that it’s a poor judgement call. In the same spirit but far worse, the next song is a demonstration of songwriting at its lowest (though there is a point later in the tracklist where they outdo what at this point feels outdoable). “Compliance” goes just about as deep as a Rupi Kaur poem but with a rhyme scheme reminiscent of Michael Scott’s Diwali song from The Office. The third track, “Liberation,” keeps the party going — it sounds like Thom Yorke and Queen had a lovechild that turned into a miscarriage. From this, it’s clear that even the two strongest forces might fail to have chemistry if they’re simply not on the same wavelength. Frontman and songwriter Matt Bellamy essentially took two entirely different songs that could’ve worked well by themselves, and for some odd reason, mashed them into one incongruent mess.

This sets the tone for the rest of the album. The remaining seven tracks are just different versions of the first three — kitsch-rock with rotating elements of modern weaponry that miss the target each time regardless of arrangement.

Songs like “Won’t Stand Down” and “Ghosts” just sort of exist — not good, not bad, just there. They blur into the larger mediocrity of the album despite not being terrible. But the sixth track is where the band truly sets a new standard — just four tracks after “Compliance,” a song that could easily be considered one of Muse’s worst compositions ever, they decidedly one-up themselves with something even worse. It’s tough to put into words just how much damage “You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween” does to Muse’s credibility, and the fact that it was a conscious decision and not a mistake is baffling!

At this point, it’s tough to tell if they take themselves seriously or not, though as a listener, it’s incredibly tough to. This is without a doubt a very political album, but a very childish one at that. Take, for instance, the group’s decision to close out the record with the song, “We Are Fucking Fucked” — that’s the last impression they chose to leave on anyone brave enough to make it to the end of the album.

And just like that, they jump from one pseudo-rebellious anthem to another. Each cut is loaded with buzzwords and no nuance, so the record ends up sounding like it was written by an SEO expert. At this point, they should just release a press statement that says, “crime and injustice should be illegal.”

Muse is still a great band, but this album, in what seems to be some sick coincidence, is a low not only for their songwriting but also their lyricism. Yet, it isn’t sloppy; they clearly put a whole lot of effort into a variety of doltish ideas, and it’s as simple as that. Their skill and proficiency remain in place, but their taste seems to have diminished greatly. What’s odd is that despite sounding this bad, they still sound like Muse — the same band that became popular for being sharp and compelling and refined.

Muse is going through a Coldplay phase where they’re trying really hard to remain relevant. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except they haven’t quite found a way to modernize their strengths.


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