Broadly speaking, Muse operates in three modes: “The government is trying to control me, but I won’t let it, because I love freedom”; “I’m so excited my gonads jumped down my throat and started banging against my larynx like a meaty Newton’s cradle”; and “Alas!!!!!” They tend to do their best in the libidinal register – think of the adrenal flooding of “Hysteria” and “Happinessthe frenetic fingerplay of Chris Wolstenholme, the twin screams of guitar and throat of Matt Bellamy, but there are gems in all three. The ninth album by the British group, will of the people, uneven samples of these ready-made buckets. Bellamy has invoice the LP as another concept album about a man sick of the dystopia he finds himself mired in, so you can expect will of the people lean heavily towards “the government”. Not so. In its mass and in its essence, it is an “alas” album: an assemblage of songs which look at the world, give up and return to sulk in their room.
will of the people starts off strongly in narrative mode. The title track calls for a populist revolution: the voices of the crowd ring out against AC/DC guitar chords and a Gary Glitter stomp-whap, both compressed to within an inch of their lives, as Bellamy growls at the big bad that he and his army are about to do. to knock down. On lead single “Compliance,” Bellamy switches roles from underdog to oppressor, probing the words that might be spoken by a narcotic omnipotence, a cult of power that promises to alleviate all suffering at the cost of blind obedience. Here Muse returns in the neon hues of the retrofuturistic 2018 release Simulation theory, muting chords against snaking funk bass lines, shearing synth tracks and vocoder hisses copied and pasted from Weeknd’s “Starboy.” So far, so good: Protagonist and Antagonist go head-to-head on a few mismatched, photocopied sets. By the time we get to the Queen’s tribute “Liberation,” another song written from the perspective of the people and their will, we almost have a story.
And then the concept deflates. From the tearful piano ballad “Ghosts (How Can I Move On)” (which at least gives us a glimpse of a parallel universe where Coldplay has a technically competent vocalist) to the flimsy, pseudo-thrash embarrassment “Kill or Be Killed” and “Won’t Stand Down,” Muse drifts into songs that sound, vaguely, about a tattered relationship. In theory, it’s a fairly fleshy subject, but it doesn’t make a rock opera. Through the grief and anger of yet another split, the band doubles down on the album’s arbitrary collage of musical styles; each song is a mosaic of references so distant and so little thought out that will of the people starting to look like this scene in the new space jam where all character of all the property is sort of there on the screen, cheering the basketball – pop cultural mush whipped into a dizzying whirlwind.