- By Gabe Straight -
There was a time when Muse was my favorite band. To me, the English rock three-piece and their first four albums were pure masterpieces. The way Muse combines rock, grunge, metal, electronic, progressive rock, classical music, and emo was nothing short of brilliant for my high school ears. Overtime, I started to have my doubts about the future of the band. After their 2009 The Resistance album, something wasn’t right. Of course, the album had singles like “Uprising” and “Undisclosed Desires.” Heck, there was even the jaw-dropping 13-minute symphonic fever dream “Exogenesis Symphony.”
At the same time, there was this lingering feeling Muse was transitioning away from their old sound.
They were getting more synthetic, and The Resistance had weaker deep cuts than I had exposure to in the past. That album was followed by The 2nd Law, which again had some great singles. “Panic Station” was a refreshingly fun direction for the band, with bassist Chris Wolstenholme taking lead vocals on a couple songs. At the same time, there was also the dubstep love letter single “Unsustainable,” which did not hit me the right way. Call me old fashioned, but I think you should leave dubstep to the computers, not to guitars.
These doubts about Muse and their future exploded into their last full-length effort Drones. I have never been more disappointed in a Muse release. The lyrics had no depth, the instrumentals had no pizazz, and Matt Bellamy’s vocals sounded like he was phoning in. It was here that I gave up.
Two years later, I get word that the band has released a new single, titled “Thought Contagion”. It should come as no surprise that I had supreme doubts. However, as the weeks went by since the release, I was hearing a lot of buzz from people. Some of them who hated Muse’s last few releases like me were really digging the new single.
Eventually, the curiosity got the better of me. I opened my laptop, opened Spotify, and braced myself.
It is with please that I can say “Thought Contagion” is a much-needed step in the right direction for Muse. This song is catchy, anthemic, and can hold its own as one of the best singles of the year. The song starts off with a bass-fronted blues riff, something that should come as no surprise to Muse fans. Soon after, “Thought Contagion” bursts into a synth-heavy melody, which ends up being the main melody in the song. Like many Muse songs of past, I felt like I was going to become abducted by aliens. On another note, the melody bears a resemblance to their single “Uprising.” Luckily, it sounds less like a rip-off and more like them keeping a good thing going. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Once the verse kicks in, Matt’s vocal style reminds me of an Imagine Dragons song, with his talk-singing. The chorus is led by a crowd of vocals singing the synth melody from the intro, which is my favorite part of the song. Muse has come through with a chorus that’s catchy and epic without being cheesy. I could totally see this song being the theme song for a CW show. The song then moves on to a quick instrumental bridge accented with somber piano chords. Before the bridge gets old, the songs moves right along, back into the chorus, and then pulls the curtains, ending the song.
That’s the other best part of the song as a long-time Muse fan.
The song has absolutely no dead wood. “Thought Contagion” is so tight, so well-executed, I remembered why I loved Muse’s music in the first place. With “Thought Contagion,” Muse has retaken their claim as one of the best bands working today. If the band keeps releasing singles as good as this, there won’t be a lot of bands who can take that claim away from them. Get very, very excited.