Release date: November 9, 2018
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Genre: Alternative / Indie
Producer(s): Muse, Rich Costey, Mike Elizondo, Shellback, and Timbaland.
This may sound like blasphemy to some of you folks out there, but before today, the only Muse I’d heard had been their radio singles. Not that I actually listen to the radio. I just hear hits like “Starlight”, “Madness”, or “Uprising” popping up on automated playlists from time to time.
Those are great songs, but they were my only exposure to Muse before diving into their eighth studio album, “Simulation Theory”. So understandably, I have a narrow frame of reference when it comes to Muse. This short intro is therefore more of a disclaimer than anything.
Now I’m going to tell you what I thought of the album. I trust that, if there’s anything from previous albums I’m missing out on, you all will fill me in down below.
When I listened to the album through the first time, it seemed like Muse had taken their recognizable sound, and fused it with a dash of inspiration from the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack. It’s filled with an abundance of synths, interspersed with orchestral interludes, distorted guitar lines, and Matt Bellamy’s operatic vocals.
Just from seeing the album artwork, I assumed that “Simulation Theory” would be a rock opera of sorts. While it lacks any real narrative continuity, all of the songs are nevertheless linked thematically. They each seem to be different takes on the simulation hypothesis — the question of whether or not we’re living in a computer simulation. But even so, there are still some songs that hit more political notes. As far as I know them, that seems like a typical Muse characteristic.
“Simulation Theory” opens with “Algorithm”, which almost sounds like it came straight out of Daft Punk’s “Tron: Legacy”. Even so, it manages to retain Bellamy’s fingerprints. What it seems like Muse is saying with this is simple. That in this album, you’re going to see a different kind of Muse, but not too different to be unfamiliar.
Muse wastes no time in diving headfirst into the album’s concept. There aren’t many lyrics in “Algorithm”, but the first ones heard are, “Burn like a slave / Churn like a cog / We are caged in simulations / Algorithms evolve / Push us aside and render us obsolete”. The song ends with the repetition of the lines, “This means war / With your creator”.
“Pressure” is the third track on “Simulation Theory”. Thematically, the song touches on themes of isolation, depression, and of course, pressure. Some standout lyrics I noted were, “I’m trapped and my back’s up against the wall / I see no solution or exit out”, and “I need you out of my head / You got me close to the edge”.
These lines seem to speak to the constant flood of information we’re all facing, and being unable able to cope with all the thoughts, opinions, and objectives bombarding us. While at the same time, being trapped in our own little boxes. Our own spheres of distorted reality.
“Pressure” is one of “Simulation Theory”‘s catchier, more poppy songs. I may be wrong, but it also sounds like it could have found its place on a number of previous Muse albums. Still, I’m a fan of this one. I especially like the acoustic version on the Super Deluxe album, which features the UCLA Bruin Marching Band.
Moving on to another catchy song. “Thought Contagion” is the seventh track on “Simulation Theory”. Its themes reflect the state of vulnerable belief and value systems, as well as the rise of fake news. This is backed up in the chorus lyrics:
“You’ve been bitten by a true believer / You’ve been bitten by someone who’s hungrier than you / You’ve been bitten by a true believer / You’ve been bitten by someone’s false beliefs”.
Again, the overall structure of this song echoes that of earlier Muse. And again, again, yes, that is just my assumption.
“Simulation Theory” isn’t quite as bold of a move for Muse as I suspected when I first glimpsed the album artwork. In it, you’ll find a lot of the familiar Muse you might be used to, but there’s also a good bit that I didn’t cover that deserves attention too.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to “Simulation Theory”. And while it may take me some time to get used to the fusion of dubstep, electronic rock, and synth-pop, this album remains both interesting and stimulating.