“The will of the people, the will of the people!” chants a chorus of crazed voices at the onset of the apocalyptic glam-banger that opens Muse’s ninth studio album of the same name. It sounds like the sort of thing an AI bot might spit back at you if its input was a hardcore mixture of the KLF, Kiss and The Daily Mail. Mad, bad, dangerous, and unreasonably good fun.
There is a thing that can happen to bands once they go stadium, as Muse long ago did, whereby staying stadium can entail falling into a pattern of feeding the machine with joyless, production line stock rock songs fit to keep fans pumping their fists all the way back to the cheap seats. A kind of vortex of economic imperative, if you like. Which, come to think of it, sounds a bit like a suitably paranoid title for a Muse song.
To come to the point: Muse probably don’t need to sound quite so self-amused after all these years in order to keep packing them into the megadomes. And yet somehow, they really do. Or at least, as amused as any band could while singing about the imminent collapse of western civilisation, climate meltdown and other miscellaneous visions of dystopia. It’s not all good cheer. The closing track is called We Are F*cking Fucked, for f*cks sake.
Described by frontman and guitarist Matt Bellamy in an exclusive interview with The Big Issue back in the spring as “a greatest hits album – of new songs”, Will of The People propels us thrillingly back and forth through worm holes in the Muse space time continuum, or something, through a series of what sound like slight returns to different versions of the knowingly OTT Teignmouth trio from throughout their soon quarter-century recording history.
Compliance is a muscular synth-funk workout so vividly retro-futuristic that its robo-voiced middle eight even skirts close to the theme tune from Knight Rider. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests, the pseudo-operatic Liberation sounds a bit like a sci-fi version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody (c’mon, you’d be disappointed if there wasn’t at least one). The campy You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween with its spooky haunted house organ riff seems to have gotten lost in leather suspenders on the way to a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Kill Or Be Killed is a mandatory big daft flaming pitch-shifter wibbling, teeth-shaking riff-o-rama featuring drumming that sounds like an amped-up gorilla boxing a speed ball. Ghosts (How Can I Move On) is a lasers-aloft hyper ballad built around a piano arpeggio distantly echoing the hook of one of Muse’s earliest singles Sunburn.