Now the dust has settled it’s clear to all that Simulation Theory was not the disaster we had envisioned. ST is like everything Muse has released this decade – patchy as hell.
Moments of inspiration and galloping bravado pop up but are often dampened by corny writing and some truly dreadful execution. There are an abundance of ideas elucidated with no sensitivity whatsoever.
At it’s core Simulation Theory offered Muse a chance to start anew. Though that potential was not fully realised, some simple changes could have made their eighth LP something truly special.
So pull on some scrubs, pick up the surgical clamps, and don’t touch me I’m sterile. It’s time to fix Simulation Theory.
Step One: Completely re-work ‘Propaganda’
Frontman Matt Bellamy seems convinced he is basically as sexy as Prince; as demonstrated by the attempts at loverman crooning on ‘Propaganda’. To call these attempts ham-fisted is to severely underreach. It’s frankly painful hearing Bellamy throw around words like ‘babe’ and ‘floozy’ with all the sexuality of Doc Brown from Back to the Future. These Prince impersonations have been going on since ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ (where it actually worked) and they need to be reigned in.
There’s some fun ideas in ‘Propaganda’ but the hook is absolute garbage and the lines between demo and master are bolted together like gridiron. You can check out the ‘Acoustic Version’ – it isn’t any better – but it lays clear how hap-haphazardly this was put together. Perhaps scrap the hook altogether, keeping the tight groove and that awesome resonator solo.
Step Two: Scrap ‘Thought Contagion’ in its entirety
Let it be known: I fucking despise this song.
Every element of this absolutely stinks, and no single aspect is even halfway salvageable. Yes I’ll keep banging on about it – that “final solution” lyric is an absolute disgrace and I still can’t believe no one thought twice before pen was put to paper. Bin it.
Step Three: Replace ‘Something Human’ and ‘Dig Down’ with their Alternate Versions
The originals are okay, but the alternate versions offer a stripped-back alternative which positively shine. These were left off the main track-listing presumably with thematic continuity in mind.
Instead, replace the originals with their alternates and put them together at the heart of the album. Sequence them with an intro/outro to keep the flow. For those who think the sudden appearance of acoustic guitar on this sci-fi album wouldn’t work, it’s already happened: See ‘Soldier’s Poem’.
Step Four: More synthesisers
No, really. For all of their commitment to some imagined 80s metaverse, this album has little do with the 1980s and a lot to do with bland AOR. ‘Get Up & Fight’, ‘Dig Down’ & ‘Blockades’ have solid pop foundations but devolve into brainless choruses. ‘Algorithm’ and ‘The Void’ are the only songs that live up to that garish Ready player One artwork on the cover. The emphasis should have been on atmosphere and while I actually appreciate the lighter tone, the project called for pulsing synth basslines and not singalong choruses.
Step Five: Get guest writers as well as guest collaborators
There’s something to be said for the unique personality of Matt Bellamy’s subject matter, however his lyrical nous has really slipped in recent years. Simulation Theory is awash with corny lines in much the way Drones was, and these hobble some undeniably powerful performances. ‘The Void’ is the most obvious example. The tastefully layered mix of bloopy synth intro, thudding beat and whispering electronics is reduced to Matt Bellamy caterwauling “You are the coder and avatar” like a thirteen year old.
It’s high time Bellamy brought on guest writers to punch up his lyric sheets – especially given how open their door has been to guest-producers and collaborators already.
Read our review of Simulation Theory here.