Just how new is the new Muse track? The sharp-toothed riffs propelling ‘Psycho’, our first taste of the trio’s seventh studio album ‘Drones’, have been in and out of their live set for sixteen years now. Here it is tagged onto the end of ‘Showbiz’ favourite ‘Agitated’, performed in Paris in 1999, almost unchanged from the version that premiered tonight:
For a long time, then, the raw, sleaze-slathered ‘Psycho’ has tugged at Matt Bellamy’s heels, begging to be developed into a whole-bodied song, instead of the loose, pummelling wig-out that’s previously existed from time to time in their live show. No matter how intergalactic their sound became, full of space-opera symphonies and starry grandeur, these guitar lines have stalked the back of Matt Bellamy’s subconscious, refusing to go away. ‘Psycho’ is sixteen years in the making. And, for fans who consider 2001’s crunching ‘Origin of Symmetry’ their pinnacle, it’s well worth the wait.
Bellamy had talked about wanting to “strip back” on ‘Drones’ as they finished ‘The 2nd Law’, their bombastic, dubstep-womp-addled sixth album. By Muse’s standards, ‘Psycho’ achieves that: for the first time in 11 years, the track sounds like three men in a room, bashing thunderously at their instruments, wringing the most eviscerating noise they can from them, as opposed to the out-of-this-world force of recent albums. Gone is the otherworldly science-fiction grandeur we’ve come to expect from the trio. In its place, is something a little more human, and grounded in reality.
There’s a bluntness to its politics, hammered home by a video packed with drill sergeants screaming into the screen, urging you to become a militarized “killing machine”, as the band perform in darkness. But the anger’s more direct than ever. No space lizard allegories. No space-age philosophising or profound eco warnings (“Wait to see your true emancipation is a fantasy… Save our crops from drought,” as Matt sang last time around). In their place: an expletive-laden, no-bullshit desert-rock firecracker about the maddening nature of modern society. “I’m gonna take you, I’m gonna break you,” Bellamy promises, with a malevolence we’ve not seen from him in forever. “I’m gonna make you a fucking Psycho!” The snarl he wraps around lyrics like “love, it will get you nowhere,” meanwhile, will no doubt have some fans wondering how his breakup with partner Kate Hudson might have impacted his psyche while making this record.
All of a sudden, the Download Festival headline spot the band are due to occupy on Saturday June 13 makes tonnes more sense: on this evidence, Muse appear to be re-emerging a tauter, more direct and fury-fuelled band than on their last few albums. Whether that’s the case – ‘Psycho’ may well the album’s most brutal moment – we’ll know on June 8, when ‘Drones’ arrives in full. Till then, there’s a new single, ‘Dead Inside’, expected on March 23 and series of UK shows kicking off this Sunday in Belfast, where more will be revealed. Keep your eyes peeled to NME.com for updates as we have them.