MUSE – Drones Review + Related Musings (/Ramblings)

In my humble opinion Muse are one of the best rock bands to have ever existed. I’ve been a loyal Muse fan ever since the year 2006; that was when I first was exposed to their personal brand of high-minded rock music. While at the time I enjoyed what I was listening to I admittedly didn’t really take notice of them until an event which triggered a personal paradigm shift forever changing how I interacted with music, the arts, and any type of live performance.

That experience was my first live rock concert. It was Friday the 23rd of November in the year 2007 – I remember this evening with extreme clarity (I assume) due to the profound effect that it had on me (I even remember that it was the week I sat my very first set of exams in high school). Of course it was Muse live: at the time their live shows were attracting rave reviews left right and center; and for good reason too – the show was phenomenal!

Never before had I experienced music unleashing such an unrelenting tidal wave of dopamine – it was literally mind altering. From the ashes of this evening rose the figure of a new born die-hard Muse fan, and from that point forward not a single day passed in which I was without music in some form or another.

For the next 18 months I excessively played every morsel of Muse that I could source from this planet – I loved every minute of it (it drove my family nuts). That’s how much I loved the induced brief experience of being nostalgically transported to that humid mosh pit thrashing out to Muse’s phenomenal music at 13 years old.

Naturally I followed the progression of Muse’s albums – first came The Resistance on the 14th of September in 2009, then came The 2nd Law around the same time in 2012. To such a committed fan like myself these were albums that couldn’t have done any wrong. Which is why I was so surprised when I heard of various views condemning the extreme direction Muse’s music was headed towards.

It seemed that fans who had fallen in love with Muse’s golden era of progressive rock had an creative falling out with the band’s continued artistic galactic exploration. I personally feel that the resulting disappointment felt by fallen fans are the filter through which they view the recent projects put out by the band and thus they are not open to anything new that they might actually like given the chance. It very much came across to me like these people were determined to see only the negatives in Muse’s latest releases.

I, myself, am a massive fan as we know. Nothing that Muse produces will ever seem to me to be extreme or over the top. However upon reflection I believe that this is largely due to my extreme appreciation of them as a band, their music, and their artistic leanings and thus have in effect created a filter opposite to that which I spoke about above: I am unable to see the negatives in their music whereas people at the other extreme are unable to see positives in their music.

This lead to a personal fundamental revelation which altered how I interacted with the subject of artistic taste from then on: it is the realization that music is ultimately a derivation of the arts; therefore enjoyment of music rests entirely on the subjective perception of the recipient (in other words the “filters” that we spoke about earlier). These “filters” can be shifted and tuned by many things; commonly they are our history of music appreciation, our personal interests/dislikes, and can even stretch to factors such as our upbringing and the culture we personally identify with. This is by no means an exhaustive list – there are a wide variety of factors that feed into the shaping of our individual artistic filters.

It carries with it the fundamental distinction which I feel many people do not yet grasp: that – if this is an accurate model of how music is appreciated by individuals – then it negates the theory that there is an objective measure of what constitutes “good music”. So when people state that a certain song, band, or album is quote “bad” this just means that IN THEIR OPINION AND EXPERIENCE that particular artistic offering didn’t stack up comparatively with their tastes. Realizing this is a source of strength for people who like certain types of music and are surrounded by individuals who do not necessarily agree with their musical taste – for these people no longer have to question whether or not there is something wrong with them as individuals or feel that they need to alter their views just to fit in: it is just as human to like a certain song or type of music with a passion as it is to be extremely disgusted by it. One’s opinion on the subject of a song or a band is just that – an opinion.

For this reason I will state my review of their latest creative project, Drones, not as fact like so many people take pride in doing, but as what my review really is – just an opinion.

Drones take every shiny gem of Muse’s musical arsenal and string them perfectly together into a concept album which highlights and strikingly underlines the unique features that make them who they are. While in some regard I do agree that their extended venturing out into space for music themes somewhat alienated a lot of their fans (pun intended), I believe that their previous two albums were attempts at providing the proper platform to express both artistically and philosophically their views on the general subject matter of mind control, extra terrestrials, and similar other worldly phenomena. To this end I see their previous two albums as stabs in the dark to try and fit the bill of being a wholesome album that addresses these matters. It wasn’t until I heard Drones in its full entirety from start to finish that I became of the belief that they finally achieved what I perceive they were attempting to do with The Resistance and The 2nd Law: create a wholesome concept album with songs that flowed and progressed effortlessly into each other whilst at the same time showcasing their musical prowess and mastery of the high-minded rock genre. It was the successful result of a culmination of everything that preceded it and in my belief consolidates their status amongst the best bands in progressive rock – I personally place it amongst their greatest collective artistic offerings to date.

It was once said by Aristotle on the subject of tragedy that good performance art in any form has an element of catharsis to it with which the observer is able to feel emotions and thus also is able to let go of those emotions when the curtains fall. To my mind good music does this as well, and Drones in its entirety evoked a wide range of emotions which I feel is a great indicator of the musical quality in this album.

To close I do want to reiterate that I am very biased in my opinions of this subject matter. I am a die-hard Muse fan and will always find their artistic offerings to be pleasing. However, I would urge those who once were fans of Muse and no longer are now since the release of either The Resistance and/or The 2nd Law to pick up this album with an open mind and have a decent listen. Accept that Muse will always be ‘that band’ who makes music on the subjects of love, aliens, mind control, the dangers of the socioeconomic system etcetera; but keep listening for there will be elements amongst their latest offering, Drones, which will remind you of the Muse that you once fell in love with and, who knows, maybe one day you’ll declare Muse to be one of your favorite go-to listens when it comes to high-minded falsetto’d rock music frantically broadcasting the belief that aliens are amongst us. At the very least, Muse could be another guilty pleasure of yours. Better still, this album in my personal opinion has the potential to redeem the band’s illustrious status in the eyes of ex-fans.

I’ll end this in the same way that I began it – and that is just by saying that whether or not any of what I wrote is of any consequence whatsoever, it is at the end of the day just my humble opinion.

Current favorite pick from Drones:

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