The Devon trio’s ninth is a missive from the End Times, which, as grim as it sounds, is pretty appropriate right now
Hello from the UK, where – maybe you’ve heard? – we live in bleak times. There’s raw sewage being pumped into rivers and the sea. Fascism and authoritarianism are on the rise. Inflation has risen to crippling rates, everyone from barristers to rubbish collectors is on strike, all while the zombie government we’re seemingly saddled with forever stumbles from one disaster to the next.
Or, in the words of Muse, We Are Fucking Fucked. Yes, that’s genuinely the title of the closing song on Muse’s ninth album, Will Of The People. There’s no raised eyebrow irony in play either, the entire track is played completely straight, with Matt Bellamy solemnly telling us about viruses, tsunamis and the like, before moving onto world wars, and concluding that “we are fucking fucked”. And as yet another Tory leadership hustings cranks up, it’s hard to argue with, let’s face it.
Yet if there’s a band you can imagine soundtracking an apocalyptic end of the world party, it would be Muse. Lyrically and (especially) musically, it’s business as usual on Will Of The People. It’s huge, over the top, and ever so slightly ludicrous – and yet, there’s an exhilaration about this band when they click into place. Despite his tendency to take himself incredibly seriously, Bellamy remains one of the best guitarists around, and the rhythm section of Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard remain an impossibly tight unit.
Will Of The People is only 38 minutes long, but it still has a tendency to make you feel completely exhausted by the end of it. There are several genres tackled over the course of the record, with everything turned up to 10. The title track is a stomping, enormous glam-rocker, which sees Bellamy sing about how “we’re going to smash your nation to pieces” while a robo-choir sings “the will of the people, the will of people” behind him. So far, so Brexit.
Compliance slips into slinky disco-funk, while Ghosts (How Can I Move On) is a very pretty, pseudo-classical piano ballad. The latter does mention “the great reset” which indicates that this may not be quite the lovelorn love song it appears to be, but this wouldn’t be a Muse album without some deep dive into a conspiracy theory.
Elsewhere, there’s a case to be made that Will Of The People is the band’s heaviest album to date. Kill Or Be Killed begins with an air raid siren, then goes full on Metallica with some fearsome riffs – at some points, it even sounds like The Prodigy circa Invaders Must Die – while Won’t Stand Down looks destined to become a live favourite with propulsive drumming from Howard.
The issues that preoccupy Muse’s critics though are still here – the obsession with prog-rock, especially mid-’70s Queen, is very much a thing, especially on the multi-tracked vocals and chamber orchestrations of Liberation, while there are so many lyrical references to revolution and “taking you down” that it all becomes a bit draining. There’s even a point during the title track where “will of the sheeple” is mentioned, and it’s at that moment you start to wonder: “Is Matt Bellamy actually taking the piss with all of this?”
Those who hanker for the straight-ahead rock of Black Holes And Revelations though will likely be more than satisfied. Will Of The People is very much a Muse album, with all the good and bad that implies. It’s bombastic, completely over the top and, particularly during the second half of the album on songs like Verona, dips into filler.
However, if we are indeed “fucking fucked”, we may as well go down together in defiant flames. Bellamy and company get that, which is why Muse are still a going concern, as they head towards their 30th anniversary. Will Of The People sounds like a missive from the End Times, which, as grim as it sounds, is pretty appropriate right now.