Ah, Muse in 2018. Where to begin? The days of ‘Origin Of Symmetry’, ‘Absolution’ and the Devon trio making some of the most engaging, interesting rock in the world seem but a speck in the rear-view mirror, as Matt Bellamy and co have threatened to become a parody of themselves over the last decade. On 2015’s ‘Drones’ they became obsessed with… drones. They legitimately sang “your ass belongs to me now” on the chorus of said record’s lead single, and were as committed as ever to telling us that, yes - the government is bad.
For better or for worse, ‘Simulation Theory’ doesn’t dial back these absurdities one jot. The cover looks like someone trying to recreate the poster for Drive after a few too many tokes on the devil’s lettuce; the first song is called ‘Algorithm’ and insists that, yes, we should indeed be terrified of Instagram’s new non-linear layout (“Burn like a slave, churn like a cog / We are caged in simulations, algorithms evolve”); single ‘Thought Contagion’ sings of bracing for “the final solution” (!). As ever with Muse, the lyrics are little more than faux-profound empty platitudes, and nothing to scribble on your school backpack, but when the place of the band has shifted so much recently, and overblown absurdity has become their greatest asset, does it really matter?
Take a step back from the ins and outs of the record and ‘Simulation Theory’ stands as a ridiculous, bombastic stab of maximalism from one of the world’s biggest stadium rock bands. The chugging intro of ‘Algorithm’ is perfect for walking out to at a sold-out Wembley Stadium to, and it’s clearly been written with exactly that in mind. Single ‘The Dark Side’ is a suitably groovy aside from the album’s relative lack of danceability, and by the time you’ve stopped laughing at the frankly jaw-dropping robotic intro to ‘Propaganda’, you realise you’re toe-tapping to its ‘80s-indebted verse without even realising.
The highlight is ‘Get Up And Fight’, beginning with hints of tropical house (stay with us) and skipping along with confidence before throwing out the best chorus the band have written in a decade. ‘Something Human’ is almost admirable in its absurdity - the lawsuit from Atomic Kitten’s ‘Whole Again’ is in the post - and if a Muse album isn’t meant to make you laugh, gasp and double-take in its ridiculousness, then we don’t wanna hear it.