Previous album Drones seemed to signify Muse were starting to run out of ideas. A bleak trudge that saw the trio coasting on conspiracy theory autopilot, it’s pleasing to report they’ve shaken things up and actually sound as if they’re having fun again. The impetus has come from both returning to their roots – Rich Costey is back as producer for the first time since 2006’s Black Holes And Revelations – and flirting with the mainstream, working with pop producers Shellback, Mike Elizondo and Timbaland.
It all means that Pressure and Blockades are Muse’s most convincing disco moments since Supermassive Black Hole, while Get Up And Fight is a ballad with the lightness of touch of Sing For Absolution, here with a deft R&B gloss. Only the album’s early single Dig Down feels a hangover from its predecessor’s sanctimony. As they enter their forties, Muse seem to have decided that being in Muse is a thoroughly hilarious way to spend their time, with the playing on the typically extravagant Propaganda as audacious as anything from their golden early days. For an album based loosely around – but of course – the consequences of artificial intelligence, this is, paradoxically, as human as Muse have ever sounded.
The album’s artwork, by Stranger Things artist Kyle Lambert, hints neatly at the hyper-colourful music. So too does the deluxe edition’s sleeve, by Star Wars designer Paul Shipper. That £50 box is a 2LP, 2CD set including a book and art print, with a marching-band version of Pressure the highlight of its 10 bonus acoustic/alternative takes. Muse are back to being the real deal.
Written by John Earls. Released on Warner.