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Stuff I Never Listen To: The Muse Edition

April 19, 2017 | by Jocelyn Hoppa

A series around short listens to albums I hastily assumed sucked. What surprises will reveal themselves, if any?

My guy was regaling me with some long-winded story about being at Barnes & Noble and looking for but not finding the new Father John Misty on CD. Apparently, the system said several copies were in-store, but him and the clerk searched high and low to no avail. Also, apparently, he was in dire need of several formats — his vinyl copy just came in the mail that day — for a full-on invasion of Misty’s musings (god love him).

Anyway, somewhere in the midst of me coming in and out of paying attention (I know, I suck), I heard him describe a guy wearing a jean jacket covered in patches upon patches of hardcore bands. Mostly. Amidst Black Flag and Converge, some real estate was also reserved for hair-metal posterboys, Motley Crüe, and then also Muse.

“Who the hell likes Muse?” he asked.

“A lot of people, actually,” was my response.

However, I've personally never listened to Muse. Fairly sure they aren’t my thing. Then again, I couldn't say why exactly other than, well, they're Muse.

We got on the topic of Muse’s last release, Drones (2015), particularly the cover featuring a guy with a joystick playing a video game of what appears to be a legion of men carrying out banal, brainwashed-level marching orders. The twist is that the guy playing the video game, his head is also a joystick! Being controlled by someone else! Possibly another joystick-headed figure, and on into infinity!!!!!! Or, you know, it could just be the all-encompassing "the man," which is effective enough.

Deep shit.

Obviously, I needed to know more about this whole concept, even if it was from a band I would surely not listen to ever again. With song titles like “Dead Inside,” “Reapers,” and “Defector,” maybe there was something to it. Other song titles, such as the confounding “[JFK]” — yup, in brackets — and “[Drill Sergeant]” — also in brackets — were less promising. These tracks are actually short snippets of, of course, a drill sergeant screaming orders, as well as a speech from JFK with some fuzzy, dissonant guitar stuff laid over it.

When we ask about the bands of today making revolt music, I guess you can’t pass up this Muse record entirely since there is a song titled “Revolt.” This revolt is set to Queen-like histrionics.

In fact, a lot of Drones sounds like a mixture of Queen, System of a Down Lite, and Coldplay when Coldplay was set to be the next Radiohead. (Remember that?)

Whereas most of the music here makes me wince, one track I’m undeniably down with during this short, 30-minute tour is “The Globalist” — a 10-minute epic (hey, every concept album needs one) that kicks off with some lonesome whistling and then a weepy guitar. I could, at the very least, see this playing during some kind of movie moment about the end of the world. Plus! Bonus points, for around the 4:40 mark the song starts to shred!

The album ends on “Drones” and is just the band harmonizing like choir boys, as if worshipping these remote quadcopters detached from human cue.

Well played, Muse. And with that, I'll conclude that I may not be a fan today, or ever, but certainly have emerged from this experiment with an appreciation for Muse's effort to give their fans something special, something with substance.

If you still doubt me, watch this video on the making of Drones. Or, you know, don't.

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