Review: Muse's Dig Down

Image credit: Thunderbolt93

Perspective can be a terrible thing. Almost immediately after my first play of Muse’s new offering 'Dig Down', my eager-to-please streaming service launched straight into the opening bars of 'Starlight' from 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations. This comparison was, to say the least, unflattering to the newer song. Muse have seemed creatively at sea since leaving the safe harbour of the strain of adventurous pop-prog they had perfected on Black Holes. Since then, they’ve moonlighted as Emerson Lake and Palmer ('The Exogenesis Symphony'), U2 ('Big Freeze'), and, apparently, Stevie Wonder ('Panic Station'). 

The guise they have most regularly assumed of late is of a Queen revival act, crowbarring in grandiose piano and multi-tracked vocals as much as possible in recent releases. This genre-hopping in Muse’s last few albums has produced a lot of entirely ridiculous fun, and 2015’s Drones showed they could still cut holes in hills with pure guitar power. 'Dig Down' has none of that album’s bite or bravado. The bass-and-drum machine opening has all the energy of a narcoleptic pug, and Matt Bellamy’s vocal is both overwrought and undercooked. 

The problem here is a lack of direction – the band’s range of different disguises in recent years has artificially extended their creative sell by date, but 'Dig Down' just reuses ideas from previous songs, like your Gran raiding the charity shop after too much Horlicks. Here can be found the vague political grumbling of 'Uprising', the painful chorus of 'Mercy', and the nonsensical lyrics of 'Survival'. The only fresh thing here is an anti-Trump reference (“a clown takes the throne”), but this has none of the passionate anger his presidency has generated amongst other musicians. 

'Dig Down' finds Muse flying in a holding pattern, at risk of a staleness that would ill-suit a band that has prided itself on tweaking and modifying their sound for so long. Bellamy’s Twitter has promised that the new album will be “varied” in sound. Hopefully that variety means a range of songs that don’t sound like 'Dig Down'.

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