It’s a shame that Matt Bellamy has never been to North Waziristan. If he had, he’d know first-hand how this area of Pakistan is to drones what lamps are to moths. He’d have seen how the notion of a ‘surgical strike’ is basically untrue, that ordinary civilians die in this part of the world. Up to 1,000 non-combatants are estimated to have died since 2004, including up to 200 children.
You can tell Matt Bellamy has never been to North Waziristan, because not a slither of this information makes it into Muse’s seventh album – a record about the oh-so-trendy-and-zeitgeisty subject of drones.
‘Drones’ is meant to be a concept album, a story about how ‘the system’ and ‘dark forces’ indoctrinate someone into remote killing. It’s a disappointing record on every level. For devoted fans, the uncomfortable truth is that they’re stuck in a glam-rock rut, which – sorry Musers – Royal Blood now do with twice the urgency and zero guff. Yes, the grandiose opera-meets-dubstep ambition of last LP ‘The 2nd Law’ has been reined in, but we’re a long way from the slash-and-burn riffery of ‘Plug in Baby’.
But the greatest sin of this record is that it’s tactless and crass. Bellamy’s supposed narrative is as dull as dog food – told with the wishy-washy flim-flam of a frothing conspiracy theorist. It lacks any insight or perspective; rather, it just seems like a cheap attempt to remake Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. There’s also something a bit masturbatory about mixing war imagery with hard-riffing rock. In the same way London has seen an explosion of bankers clutching copies of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, you can sadly picture a gun nut or Andy McNab reader totally getting off to this.
Most worrying is that it does the discussion around drones a disservice. Remote killing isn’t new – it’s happened since armies stopped fighting with swords. What is remarkable is the total lack of accountability over their use. Yet Muse are so out of their box, they throw in a sample of JFK rather than the actual, living president who has sanctioned more drones than anyone: Barack Obama. We used to moan that musicians didn’t write about politics anymore. Based on this effort, maybe that’s for the best.