Matt Bellamy is a man who wears many hats. His band’s wandering ambition has always been what has drawn me to them. So when new music rolls along you wait and wonder: what will they come up with this time? Hard rock? Space pop? A three-piece symphony?
On ‘Dig Down’ Bellamy appears before us wearing the jaunty fez of slinky, sanguine synth-pop.
What, you mean like their song ‘Madness’?
Yes, just like ‘Madness’. But then that was such an odd turn for them back in 2012, and though many baulk at that track it’s one that showed a new dynamic to their sound, and an unexpected soulfulness. I for one am happy for them to mine that seam a little deeper.
‘Dig Down’ operates around the same basic hallmarks of ‘Madness’; synthetic dub bass, sexy beat and sounding a bit like George Michael. However whereas that song was a make-up song, ‘Dig Down’ is a protest song of sorts. The song never really makes it past vague platitudes around resistance and oppression, which is becoming more noticeable in Muse’s latter work. One lyric lands nicely though: “When…a clown takes the throne / We must find a way.”
Now that American-centric release makes more sense.
Ever since moving to LA Matt Bellamy has fancied himself a crooner, but he does not entirely convince. Bellamy’s strength is as a rock singer, caterwauling about the extremes of emotion: love and hate, or histrionics as some might say.
This gentle croon sees Bellamy teetering on camp, and his recent obsession with stacked harmonies only adds to the faint whiff of cheese. The reliance on these Queen-aping harmonies is doubly frustrating when Bellamy has an excellent supporting vocalist in Chris Wolstenholme.
The uncomfortable truth for Muse fans is that the failings of their recent output are attributable to their hero, Matt Bellamy. The music remains engaging, with drummer Dom and bassist Chris as committed as ever. The problem is with Bellamy’s delivery and slip-shod vocals which don’t communicate the depth of passion that we have come to expect.
Even his countenance and phrasing, which in recent albums have noticeably rounded off. I loved the quavering vulnerability of his voice and the anodyne, brittle twang that was unmistakably English. That’s nowhere to be found.
This isn’t their biggest rabble-rouser (‘Uprising’) nor their most poppy fare to date (‘Undisclosed Desires’) but there is something winning in this odd little song. It’s certainly not lead single material, and I don’t expect to see it on any further releases. There is some quirky charm to an anti-establishment song presented this inoffensively. It should be noted that the accompanying video is fantastic too.
The final verdict? If I wrote for IGN I’d give it a 7/10, probably. Overall It’s a more engaging sound than the tail-end of Drones. But then it feels like a bit of a swerve too far the other way. Bellamy’s fret noodling is sorely missed, even if the escalation through the final minute is a satisfying peak to end on. ‘Dig Down’ is a little corny for sure, but it’s easy to like.