The lads from the South of England are back with their 8th album ‘Simulation Theory’. Albeit daring and innovative, will this Muse record be one to forget or praise for its daringness?
Over the past few days I have been stunned and angered by some of the reviews that have come out from renowned magazines like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and NME. I have been a fan of Muse since their days as the Rocket Baby Dolls and have always adored their distinct sound. That does not mean I cannot be objective about a record that clearly means to shock some of Muse’s fanbase.
In some reviews I read the complaint about songs sounding far too pop-like, being out of sync with the current music trends and mocking the underlying layer of political and psychological messages Matt Bellamy expresses in his lyrics. Their ratings varied from 2 stars out of 5 or a grade 6 out of 10, which just proves music taste is bloody subjective. So here is my very subjective opinion after listening to Simulation Theory about 8 times.
Why do I mention 6 times specifically? As this record requires multiple tours of listening before you can really grasp its meaning and sound. This is something I encounter with other artists as well, where at first glance you might have your reservations or even utter disgust, but after a few rounds start to enjoy it all.
Simulation Theory shows us that Muse dare to innovate with their sound and are looking to bring the Muse tunes into a new recipe. If you ask me they do so very effectively. With the cover art created by ‘Stranger Things’ artist Kyle Lambert, it sets a futuristic yet 80’s synth sounding theme. Coming on the back of the politically beefed up record Drones, which was Muse at its best if you ask me, the political undertone on Simulation Theory can still be found quite vividly.
Where Matt Bellamy thankfully does not go full anti-Trump hate tripping, he sticks to a more philosophical stance on human kind needing to stand up for their opinion and freedom, instead of being forced into certain thinking by the media and countless governments. This is evidently put to the test on the tracks ‘The Void’ and ‘Propaganda’. Especially ‘The Void’ left me with a nostalgic deja-vu feeling referring back to the classical melodic strength of the Muse sound as I love it.
Whereas previous record ‘Drones’ could at times be dark and heavy, ‘Simulation Theory’ plays with the notion of empowerment, strength, fighting and not giving up. That brings me to the two best songs on the album ‘The Dark Side’ and ‘ Dig Down’. The latter was created from Bellamy’s youthful experiences in church and his love for gospel music. The gospel like vibe to Dig Down is maximised on the Deluxe version of the record where there is an additional track with a Dig Down Acoustic Gospel Version which is a nice change up on this album. Also on the Deluxe and Super Deluxe versions of the album you will find a few additional songs with alternative versions. The Alternate Reality Versions and Acoustic Versions are a refreshing and scintillating variety.
With the help from hip hop moguls Mike Elizondo (Dr Dre, Eminem), Shellback (Taylor Swift, Britney Spears) and Timbaland (Missy Elliot, Justin Timberlake), Muse manage to change things up in the drum and beat section of the record.
With an ever increasing trend of trance and dance style songs in the charts nowadays, it is not only daring but risky to bring a synth, 80’s Tron style record which in some ways tends to forget the Muse sound so typical to them. This eerily comes to effect on the really poor ‘Get Up And Fight’ and annoying ppppppp-ppppp-proppaa ‘Propaganda’, which is like Prince meets R&B gone drunk.
On the other hand a positively note worthy track is the September released single ‘Pressure’, which is like a love child between Muse and The White Stripes, and the ever so cool Terry Crews appearing in the music video. And if you happen to have an Apple Music or Spotify account you can get yourself access to the Super Deluxe version of this record with version of Pressure together with the UCLA Bruin Marching Band, which just makes me jizz in my pants every time. Check out the snippet below for a quick taste.
Out with the old, in with the new?
Anybody daft enough to claim that ‘Simulation Theory’ is not a Muse sounding album needs to get their ears and brain checked. Although there are some very evidently daring concepts and 80’s style sounds being toyed with, overall this still signifies as Muse, in my opinion. Being a metalhead, I do miss the more Rock themed style record like ‘Drones’, but it is a refreshing change. For a next record I would love to see a combination of Simulation Theory and Drones. However ultimately I respect and admire Muse’s daring step with this album, even though they might have some (daft) angry fans who want the old Muse back.
P.S. If you want to get your money’s worth, then get the Deluxe or Super Deluxe versions, with a bunch of additional tracks well worth a listen.