We have reached the stage of the pandemic that epidemiologists term ‘The Wordle Wave’. It’s the point at which COVID appears to be gradually abating, but the population remains cautious, conditioned to solitude and stung once already by Eat Out To Help Out.
So terrified are we of the world outside, and so stressed by the pressures of returning to normality, that we seek out the most mundane activities to justify avoiding real life. In extreme, borderline cult cases, we might even begin communicating with each other in arcane symbolic languages consisting of coloured blocks, cryptic numbers and secretive code words. In other words: the online word puzzle World is completely incomprehensible to anyone with any actual fucking work to do.
With Omicron still doing the rounds, there’s a natural inclination to remain in our lockdown shells, reliant on the security of solely online contact. It’s understandable but stupefying, and it’s at this stage that you might find yourself craving culture’s big guns to make us feel alive again. Nothing short of a defibrillator blast of hi-octane squeal rock to the chest of humanity will stir us from such our stupor.
Cometh the hour, cometh the band. Muse returned last week with ‘Won’t Stand Down’, a five-star song that sounds like the giant futuristic mutant cyborg that burst from the stage during ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ at the end of shows on their last tour has written his own version. While you were busy perfecting your soda bread, Muse were building instruments with their own gravity. It sounds like Download grew legs and kicked Elon Musk to Mars.
Muse aren’t the sort of band to emerge from a global disaster whimpering a video montage of an a capella ‘Something Inside So Strong’ with their Hollywood mates. No: like space-metal preppers, they’ve been inadvertently limbering up for ‘the new normal’ throughout their entire career. Frontman Matt Bellamy has been prophesying Armageddon since at least ‘Apocalypse Please’ in 2003, and like he said in that song: “It’s time for something Biblical to pull us through”. Having cast himself as a leader of men in hours of great strife on tracks such as 2009’s ‘Uprising’, it’s now Bellamy’s time to march us into the future. The big wide world of monster rock and grand stadium spectacle is still out there, Wordleites, and Muse are here to clear us a path back there with a Borg bulldozer of a song.
The Muse historians among us will be watching the lyrical content of any forthcoming album with much interest, of course. Bellamy has long written of shadowy cabals of manipulative global elites pulling strings behind the scenes to mass-control populations, destroy freedoms and stoke division and war; the past two years have seen millions warp such fears and take to the streets, invade revered seats of democracy and sing songs on the tube about uncontrollable flatulence.
On the face of it, ‘Won’t Stand Down’ is a vengeance song about deciding not to put up with an abusive, “gaslighting” ex-partner’s bullshit anymore, but the video sees Matt playing a decrepit figure operating entire faceless armies with flicks of his tech-connected fingers: Trump, much?
That Bellamy hasn’t stepped up to become a figurehead of the Covid “Truthers”, though – and that ‘Won’t Stand Down’ isn’t called ‘Pfizergeddon’ or something – is proof that a far more reasoned mind has been whirring away at the core of Muse all these years. This might well be the one band capable of both exploding all the pandemic misinformation myths but also exposing the advantages that have been taken of it by political shills: all the crony contracts, Big Pharma profiteering and vulture capitalism. You know: the freedoms to protest that were really being destroyed while everybody was complaining about there being no Wetherspoons steak night, or humanity’s inability to work together in the face of a threat to the entire species that, rather rudely, didn’t seem to comprehend the concept of international borders.
At a time when COVID conspiracists are being roundly and rightly mocked, we need a band to make sense of the chaos. Muse aren’t just the band to help, eventually, put the pandemic behind us; they’re the band best placed to reveal what the hell just happened…