After listening to the 7th album by Muse I felt a little like I'd been kicked in the face. I don't know that any album has left me as perplexed as 'Drones'. Trying to anticipate any new release by this band is a challenge but this one, hailed as a return to roots, is possibly the most confronting yet. I've been a fan of the band long enough to know to expect the unexpected, I just don't know that unexpected even begins to cover this journey.
This is a concept album, in as much as that is a broad term for anything with a theme, and it is most definitely a progression from track 1, 'Dead Inside' through to track 12 'Drones'. To appreciate Matthew Bellamy's story of a person losing hope and falling prey to the control of dark forces, indoctrinated if you will, through their battle against said forces to their ultimate defection you need to listen to this in order. This is not a "throw it on shuffle" album. That said, it's a mighty confronting ride.
'Dead Inside' sets the tone for the story - loss of hope, in the guise of a broken love story. It's not quite a ballad. Very emotional lyrics about a partner's complete lack of soul and the struggle with that, before succumbing to the same fate. Bellamy's voice is strong and beautiful here.
'Psycho' is where we are exposed to the antagonists of the story. Here are the dark forces blasting their way in to suck up all the soulless and convert them into their puppets. Their drones. This song has a distinct'Uprising' feel to it, with the thumping rhythm, and the inevitable sing-along bound to come at the opportunity to scream "a fucking psycho", and "your ass belongs to me now" at the top of your lungs. This will be monster live. This track also features a riff that fans will recognise as the outro to Stockholm Syndrome andMap of the Problematique.
'Mercy' opens with a piano that brings 'Starlight' to mind. Here the protagonist realises he is succumbing to the dark forces. It's a pop/rock blend and quite the earworm.
'Reapers' is up next. This track, when released prior to the album, was one that had me feeling like we were getting an album containing "old" Muse. It's frenetic, and in-your-face. Old-school but new. One of the best tracks, with the live outro from Plug In Baby incorporated, and heavy references to Rage Against The Machine.
'The Handler' is my favourite track on this album by a country mile. This is the siren's call luring all the lost Muse fans home. Listening to this you can forgive the glitch in the matrix that led to Neutron Star Collision and all things Twilight. Chris Wolstenholme delivers unapologetically filthy, grungy bass in this song, yet he also possesses a feather-light touch that dances across the frets and, coupled with Dominic Howard's massive drums it is one of the darkest works to date. Lyrically our protagonist reaches a turning point and realises he does not want to be controlled.
Following 'The Handler' is a 54 second track featuring John F. Kennedy speaking on communism, subversion, and stealth. Backed by strings it leads directly into 'Defector'. Queen harmonies abound. The heavily distorted bass is a nice contrast to the vocals, but overall the song feels a bit repetitive. The protagonist is shaking himself of the shackles of the dark forces and there's a lighter feel. It is book-ended by JFK's speech.
'Revolt' follows on and this is one with which I struggled. A startling burst of pop optimism which is almost too much perk to handle after the depths of what has gone before. The lyrics are all about inspiration and hope, but to these ears it sounded all a bit Eurovision. As with many things Muse there's a strong possibility it will grow into a favourite, but right about now I'm squirming in my chair.
'Aftermath' is a welcome relief, opening with strings and guitar which brings Dire Straits to mind momentarily. Here is a ballad in emotional opposition to 'Dead Inside'. Some beautiful, delicate guitar by Bellamy in this, before it rises to a more anthemic climax. The protagonist has found love, and hope, once again.
'The Globalist' opens with whistling and some serious Morricone vibes, then moves into a slide guitar section, before the vocals begin and tell the tale of the rise and fall of a dictator. Bellamy stated during an interview on Radio 1 that this was the sequel to 'Citizen Erased'. The middle section of this track suddenly goes mental - with a heavy riff that seems to be 'Helsinki Jam' from the Resistance Tour gigs. This section is a corker - a face-melting corker that ends all too soon as it fades into a piano solo by Bellamy.
'Drones' is the final track - a hymnal, A capella song with layers of Bellamy vocals. It is an eerie and ghostly lament to the victims of drone warfare.
Have they returned to their roots? Maybe. This is definitely them sans the electronics and dubstep they've previously visited. When they hit their rock stride they're as bold and unique as ever they were, and possibly the strongest sound of their careers. Bellamy is a frighteningly intelligent man and leaves you pondering if he's a genius, bat-shit crazy, or both. Certainly he is a deep-thinker andhis fascination with the disconnect between humanity and society is more than relevant, as is the loss of empathy to which this album alludes.
Hard to know how to rate this one because I'm still trying to digest what I've heard. As a concept album it holds true to its story, with strong and clear arcs, it's just some of the steps along the way where I'm not sure if it stumbles or I do in the wake of Bellamy's thought processes. There are many really beautiful, creative, and clever musical elements to this album. I suspect Muse will continue to divide listeners, as they always have, and just maybe that's perfectly fine with them.
In the mid to late 90's, when grunge began to wither away and MTV strived to find the next easy to access label to attach to new batch of up and coming rock bands, global attention started to shine on the Alt Rock scene.
The I Love The 90s Tour returns to Auckland next year March 23rd at Auckland’s Spark Arena, with a completely off the chain lineup featuring classic Hip Hop crew Naughty by Nature. Vin Rock from the Grammy Award winning rap group speaks fondly of this country and love of our people.
The Soundsplash Festival is returning to Raglan in January 2018. Local reggae favourites Katchafire are returning to feature on the bill. We sent a few questions over to lead vocalist Logan Bell ahead of the festival.
Following 2015’s Kitty, Daisy & Lewis'The Third', the sibling trio are back stronger than ever, harnessing their ability to create pop-infused soul, blues, rock n roll and a large mix of genres to perfection, in the shape of their fourth studio album, Superscope.
Kylie Price has just released her new album Bones. Last week she appeared on theNZ Entertainment Podcast, where she sang a new song I Dont Want To Go off the album while talking shop about her dream gig to play with Ed Sheeran and her Philipino roots.
Last week I caught up withPeter Hook ahead of returning down under for Australasian leg of the Joy Division and New Order Substance tour. We had a great chat about the spirit of punk, what it takes to write a book and why shows like the X-factor are so unhealthy…
Long established as one of New Zealand’s finest acts, South Pacific reggae-soul legends, The Black Seeds are set to tour the country in September, following the release of their long awaited 6th studio album Fabric, (out today - Friday September 8th).
Jacqueline Nalpant is a Booking Agent for the Paradigm Talent Agency, and is heading to New Zealand early next month where she'll be one of the speakers for the Going Global Music Summit (Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd September at Roundhead Studios, Auckland).
Since making her musical debut with her song Drift early last year, fast attracting a solid fan base and over 1 million plays across Spotify and Soundcloud in just a few months, Madeline North, better known by her musical moniker So Below, has once again blessed us with a moodier, masterful electro-pop banger, titled Ruin.
Since forming in 1998, the Antwerp, Belgium based trio Triggerfinger have long become a mainstay on the rock scene, building a solid reputation across Europe, the US, Canada and beyond, as one of the hardest-driving and sharpest dressing bands around.
Popular metalcore group Northlane are on their way to New Zealand. The Sydney band are touring North America taking in countries like Chile and Mexico as they head our way down-under next month to play Wellington’s San Fran then Auckland at the iconic Kings Arms.
Returning to New Zealand for the first time in three years, Australian metalcore band In Hearts Wake are on their way to our shores next month for a quick run of shows supporting their label cohorts Northlane.
Courtney Marie Andrews has landed in New Zealand, and set to play two concerts this week with Joe Pug - tonight at San Fran in Wellington (Wed July 19) and tomorrow night at The Tuning Fork in Auckland (Thu July 20).
Auckland two-piece Skinny Hobos, Alex Elvis and Texas Holdom, are heading on a 5 date New Zealand tour with headliners Decades, Bakers Eddy and Dead Favours. Kicking off tonight in Hamilton (July 14), the tour will also take them to Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and finishes up in Dunedin.
Have you ever considered sharing your most personal experiences with the entire world? Well come this Friday 14th July, that’s what Emma Cameron, the rocking front-woman of kiwi band Decades is about to do, when they release their long-awaited full length debut album, The Truth And Other People, so we sat down with the cheerful front woman to discover just what truth this album reveals..
Whilst Sonny Landreth is a well known slide-guitar master, zydeco enthusiast and phenomenal blues legend, what you may not know about him, is that he is one of the nicest gentlemen in the entire universe.
He was always the boy next door type energy, that type of person you just always wanted to be around. From day one, Shay Taylor has always been one to break the mold and live life in such a vibrant and contagious manner, that no matter who he spoke to, they walked away feeling great!
Anthonie Tonnon is taking his new Extended Player and single to Australia, and to New Zealand towns that missed the first run of dates, or sold out too quickly. He’ll also be appearing at three summer festivals this February.
After a stand of three Auckland concerts that sold out in minutes in January, Connan Mockasin is hitting the road across Aotearoa for the first time in eight years this summer for a select run of headline shows.