Muse – Simulation Theory
Simulation Theory seems to be the culmination of what Muse has been building toward since they began their pivot into arena rock with The Resistance.
Many have decried the alleged “decline” of the band. Most of these people agree that the golden era of Muse ended with the release of Black Holes and Revelations. In following albums, the band ditched many of their more experimental leanings in favor of charging full steam into the spacey epic realm—to the point of the music almost becoming superfluous. But all the same I found myself enjoying those songs, even when I found myself bobbing to a robot voice crying “UNSUSTAINABLE” over a dubstep breakdown. Or, in “Psycho,” a song with a horribly cheesy chorus that I forgave because the riff was so darn epic I had to enjoy it in spite of everything.
Simulation Theory feels cohesive. Much moreso than the protest album of sorts Drones, which was largely forgettable and had trouble finding itself. The album draws upon the outrageous elements of The Resistance era on, because their core fanbase expects it at this point. Yet, having coasted their way through arena tours with a reputation firmly cemented as one of the top live acts on the planet (in support of three albums), the band now seemingly feels more free to draw back from the bag of tricks that made them popular in the first place. “Blockades” feels like it could be a long lost cousin of “Knights of Cydonia” with its pounding, consistent drum beat. And, all of the sudden, the standalone singles “Dig Down,” “Thought Contagion,” and “Something Human” make more sense.
I should probably mention at this point that Simulation Theory has a very 80s, TRON feel to it. It’s still kind of superfluous, but this time it feels like Muse is embracing it, rather than unintentionally going too far in the gaudy direction, in an effort to create mass appeal jams. They know who they are. “Pressure,” the most recent single was plainly written to be fun arena rock, a radio hit. With a distinct Bellamy crafted trademark guitar riff holding the whole thing together. “Taking themselves too seriously Muse” is gone in favor of “just have fun Muse,” and the change in attitude is contagious. Dare I say… a Thought Contagion? “Break it to Me” is Rage Against the Machine gone 80s. Make of that what you will (I like it).
There also is nary a somber moment on the album. That was part of the problem other recent Muse albums had. On Drones, the more melancholy moments came across as melodramatic in the context of the other songs. They seem to realize this, and stay in their (very slick and fun) lane for Simulation Theory. The closest thing to a soft moment is “Something Human,” which is really more of a deviation from the new-wave influence into something near synthpop territory.
For what it is, Simulation Theory is a very fun listen that exceeded my expectations. Even if a couple of songs sound like near copies of old songs, that’s forgivable in the context of diving full on into the nostalgic world of the future (I chose those words on purpose) that they seem to be embracing.
My favorite non-single tracks on this album are probably “The Dark Side” and “Blockades.”