Not with a bang but a whimper
I own, love, and have ingrained in my memory, every Muse album except Hullaballoo. When in 2012 some of the band's longtime fans freaked out about the teaser for 'The 2nd Law', which contained the dubstep piece from the eponymous track, it actually piqued my curiosity, and the album ended up becoming one of my favorites, dubstep and all. I had a few misgivings about 'Drones', but thought that, on the whole, it was a decent album.
But, as they say, with time comes wisdom, and reflecting upon the progression of Muse's career it becomes clear that the peak of their artistic endeavors now lies well behind us. Their latest album presently under review, 'Simulation Theory', appears to be the final nail in the coffin.
I can deal with an overproduced yawner or two that will do well on the radio. This seems to be an integral part of Muse's branding strategy now, and, whatever floats your boat, it puts the metaphorical bread on the Muse table. So who can blame them? However, I can only tolerate so much uninspired electronic fluff on any one album.
Simulation Theory's opening track 'Algorithm' was able to pique my interest, but ultimately lacked the suspense to make me jump up and down in my seat like 'Supremacy' did seven years ago (and honestly no Muse song has since). The same goes for 'The Dark Side', 'The Void', and a couple of others. 'Something Human' and 'Get Up and Fight' would not be out of place on a Shawn Mendes CD, though, in the latter's defense, he would have probably put a bit more thought into the lyrics. 'Pressure' comes closest to the Muse of old, and the witty 'Propaganda' is intriguing as well. But again the slick production is too much to bear for an old rocker like myself.
Pleasing to the ear though their choruses may sound, most tracks painfully lack either inspiration or energy, or both. One gets the sense that Muse spent the better part of five minutes writing each song around a few catchy refrains they still had lying around from the 'Absolution' days. So it happened that fifty percent of 'Break It To Me' consists of mindless filler built on top of one rather ugly-sounding riff. By contrast, plenty of energy was expended on engineering and mixing the monstrosity together.
To be sure, part of the problem lies with me. As the gentlemen of Muse have aged, so has yours truly. The wild hairs have made place for a white collar and the latent revolutionary passions for a calmer temperament more fitting for a responsible adult lifestyle. This means that perhaps I'm quicker than ever before tempted to roll my eyes when I hear Bellamy belt out a not-so-subtle reference to President Trump:
"When God decides to look the other way and a clown takes the throne
We must find a way
Face the firing squad, against all the odds
You will find a way"
This lyrical masterpiece vaguely reminds me of the "When fools can be kings" line from 'Knights of Cydonia', by the way. Oh, turns out that was about George W. Bush -- how original. Another year, another Republican president, but to Muse's quadragenarians the juvenile jabs never get stale. At least 'Knights of Cydonia' was a killer track the live performance of which I will never forget. I'm afraid we cannot say the same about 'Dig Down', which no Muse fan would even remember come next Tuesday absent its odd resemblance to 'Madness', another snoozer from two albums ago.
Even if it were true that Muse hasn't left me but I've left Muse (to borrow a lame cliche), the fact remains that Simulation Theory's tracks are, with an exception or two, completely uninspired and mediocre by that band's admittedly high standards. No matter how I hard I try, I fail to appreciate the vast majority of it.
Sadly, this is the way a great band ends. Definitely not recommended.