Muse review, Simulation Theory: An overly polished, politically paranoid mess

Rock band's eighth album will be baffling to new listeners, and disappointing to old fans

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Saturday 10 November 2018 18:48
Matt Bellamy, Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme of Muse
Matt Bellamy, Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme of Muse

Exasperated Muse fans probably had relatively low expectations for the British rock band’s eighth record, given the quality of its predecessor, Drones.

The question as to whether frontman Matt Bellamy is intent on turning Muse into a Spinal Tap-level parody of a band or if he still takes it seriously is a real distraction on Simulation Theory. Where 2009’s The Resistance trod a thin line between Muse album and Queen tribute record – far too much of their new record sounds like the rejected scores from Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack, or The Neverending Story. This is the first Muse album to invite non-rock producers into the fold: chart pop and hip-hop stalwarts Mike Elizondo, Shellback and Timbaland are all present, and all responsible for the overly polished mess that ensues.

The melodrama of opener “Algorithm”, with its low-pulsing synth line, is laughable, as is the wannabe menacing intro that vaguely mimics “Knights of Cydonia” on “Blockades”. Bellamy’s lyrical conspiracy theories read like the drug-induced ramblings of a 16-year-old schoolboy: “It’s too late for a revolution/ Brace for a final solution,” he preaches on the sluggish “Thought Contagion”. You picture him drooling about “thought pollution” and “mind control” in front of a rapt, equally stoned audience.

His voice, and the band’s technical skill, are still as impressive as ever – although on a song like “Pressure” vocals are occasionally drowned out in the mix (which shouldn’t happen to someone with a voice as good as Bellamy’s). “Pressure” itself is a pleasing semi-throwback to 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations, with whispers and a chugging, heavy guitar riff that recalls “Supermassive Black Hole”. It’s one of the album’s few high points.

Simulation Theory seems to fall into two territories – songs are either half-hearted nods to the best of their heavier rock-opera back catalogue, or futuristic, electronic pop-heavy tracks that borrow from bands more adept at that particular sound, and the vast majority of which are burdened with Bellamy’s political paranoia. For a new listener, it’s baffling. For a former, diehard fan, it’s disappointing.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in