Muse: Will Of The People track-by-track

Because I’m on a long train home, and because if I’m honest with myself this will be too long for a Twitter thread.

1. Will Of The People


Released as a single back in June. It’s still weird to have a Muse guitar part simple enough for me to play semi-competently – but my goodness it’s effective.

Referencing the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests one minute and Brexit the next, WOTP’s title track is emblematic of a frustrating running theme in this album: for all the talk of revolution, it’s often unclear what any of it stands for. That’s been the case for a while – Muse make songs to be angry to and the listener fills in the rest – but in a time of ever-increasing polarisation, it leaves WOTP (as a whole) open to interpretations they probably don’t want. Matt Bellamy clearly sees this as a positive, telling Zane Lowe in an Apple Music interview that if both left and right are co-opting his music then at least it shows common ground. I’m not sure I agree – the COVID-19 conspiracy theories, climate denial, Trump inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol and whatever culture war our own government has got embroiled in this week surely should have made clear that there are some movements you don’t want to even unintentionally endorse.

Anyway, the “will of the sheeple” moment in the middle eight is hilarious, and I really hope we get a Making Of video at some point just to see the moment someone said “Wouldn’t it be funny if…”

2. Compliance

The more I listen to Compliance, the more I’m convinced that the fandom was wrong about Compliance when it was released in March. Yes, it’s Muse doing pop, but this still slaps. Even the bit that’s basically Knight Rider. Especially the bit that’s basically Knight Rider.

This single was a major victim of the “not taking sides” noted above – a handful of anti-vaxxers took the line “we can save you, we just need your compliance” and ran away with it. It isn’t – Bellamy, who is triple-jabbed, eventually described the situation to NME as “an unfortunate coincidence… that’s something I could have written in 2008” – although the fact it took so long to address is again very telling of the album’s general ethos. To be fair, reading Compliance as anti-vax always seemed like a huge stretch to me – you’d end up with a lot of conflicting messages about fear, for one thing!

Instead, the theme of seeking refuge in a clique that then takes advantage makes me think more of the very people who lure others into COVID conspiracies for their own gain, or just those Twitter arguments where hurt people lash out at each other. Or even my own damn brain going down a rabbit hole, including on COVID, because the anxiety that comes with not knowing feels much worse!

3. Liberation

Sonically, WOTP is in part a response to label expectations of a Greatest Hits album – instead, Muse set out to create a sort of “best of” the sounds they’ve tried out over the years in new songs. The title track is Uprising-esque glam rock, Compliance is pop, and Liberation is Muse doing Queen. Especially watching the live version published on YouTube on release day, it’s great to see piano front and centre for the first time in quite a while. The backing vocals are surprisingly catchy, and “thank you THANK YOU thank you THANK YOU” now lives rent-free in my head.

4. Won’t Stand Down

WOTP’s lead single, released way back in January, remains possibly my favourite, marrying “old Muse” and “new Muse” brilliantly. The unusual rhythm of the verse (weird tip: it makes more sense if you think about Flo-Rida verses) gives way to Muse’s heaviest chorus in a long time, and it hasn’t got any less fun with time.

5. Ghosts (How Can I Move On)

Strap in folks, we’re processing the grandparents. Focusing on losing loved ones in the pandemic, this piano ballad is basically Matt Bellamy solo, and is reminiscent of his 2020/2021 solo work (especially the piano version of Take A Bow). In amongst the dramatic bluster of an actual literal Muse album, it takes a while for Ghosts to stand out, but it seems to get more powerful on each listen.

6. You Make Me Feel Like It’s Halloween

Complete with an organ riff and film samples, Muse’s current single was released alongside the album on, erm, 26th August. Glad I’m not the only one impatient for autumn?

In “best of Muse but it’s new material” terms, Halloween sits closest to Supermassive Black Hole (remember that for most people it’s associated with vampire baseball!) and it’s just very, very fun. There are Daft-Punk-type robot vocals, there’s an in-your-face guitar solo, there are massive drums (in general, drummer Dom Howard took control of much of this album’s production and it shows). It will presumably be on the streaming services’ seasonal party playlists come October. Sorry about that.

Sidenote: My boyfriend’s response to this song was to exasperatedly buy me an album by Perturbator, so I’m looking forward to listening to that.

7. Kill Or Be Killed

If you listen to one song from WOTP, 1) come on the album is literally under 40 minutes you can do it but 2) make it this one. Kill Or Be Killed sits firmly on the heavier end of Absolution or Origin of Symmetry – it “sounds like Muse”, assuming you haven’t paid attention to what Muse sound like for a decade and a half. It made its live debut in June – frustratingly only a few weeks after the gig I went to! – and has already become a fan favourite. Lyrically, it’s about the futility of trying to do the right thing when the world actively punishes you for it, which is A Huge Mood.

8. Verona

I am incredibly torn on Verona. Musically, it’s absolutely beautiful. Within a minute or so of the first listen, I had it earmarked as the one to try and practise as soon as I’m home and reunited with the guitar. A synth-led ballad that’s destined for sports highlights and emotional TV recaps, Bellamy’s voice really gets to shine, and it’s as incredible as ever. Throw in the gorgeous backing vocals and yet more huge drums, and by rights it should be my favourite song on the album by a considerable margin.

And yet – lyrically, it’s a very on-the-nose Song About Lockdown. On reflection, I think that sort of thing will always make me feel a little uncomfortable – not that they shouldn’t exist at all, just a matter of personal taste. Verona is centred around an illicit relationship under lockdown restrictions, and it’s brilliantly done – but particularly towards the end, I feel like it veers very close to the “if you really love someone you can’t help but break the rules for them” narrative that hurt me so much at the time. (Being autistic often means breaking the rules is not an option and the world places a huge question mark over your ability to feel emotions, so it’s a double whammy!) Again, I’m not trying to claim any kind of moral high ground – I got into a relationship within about five minutes of this being feasible in my circumstances – it’s just something that unfortunately doesn’t sit quite right with me. But it’s so good. Maybe it’ll get easier with time.

By the way – in a recent CBS News interview, Bellamy shows off the first synth he ever owned, age 12, and how he first learned the arpeggiator function. I feel like this explains a lot about everything Muse have ever written.

9. Euphoria

This comes with much the same caveat as Verona – it’s a Song About Lockdown – without being as exceptional as Verona to balance against it. From what I’ve seen of the fandom, everyone agrees it sounds like another Muse song but nobody agrees which one (I mostly hear Time Is Running Out) – to be fair, that does fit with the “greatest hits” feel of the album! It’s very catchy and will likely grow on me, and will be amazing live. I’m also a big fan of the I Feel Love-esque synth.

10. We Are Fucking Fucked

The year is 2022. We’re heading into a financial crisis, fuelled by raging war and an ongoing deadly pandemic. Climate breakdown is here, and for many it’s already life-threatening. Pretty much every type of hatred is on the rise. We only sort of have a government. I’ve probably forgotten something huge. Martin Lewis, that guy who used to get excited about Bank accounts on GMTV, is the de facto leader of the resistance. Muse, those guys who used to sing about hypothetical future turmoil, have to write a song called We Are Fucking Fucked to stand a chance of keeping up.

I’m a huge fan of Muse’s debut album Showbiz, so when Bellamy started talking about the “greatest hits” concept I was really hoping that early sound would be represented. I’m delighted to say that WAFF delivers – while the last minute or so more closely matches Knights of Cydonia‘s gallop, the main guitar part is (whisper it) that little bit Radiohead. The lower register Bellamy uses takes some getting used to, but really makes the song stand out in the album. The Queen-style “STOCKPILE” backing vocals are both funnier and catchier than is strictly reasonable. WAFF is fast becoming my favourite song on the album.

Lyrically – as the title suggests, this is what anxiety sounds like. To me it captures a frustration that’s built throughout this year – that all the overlapping crises are so intertwined that it’s hard to even draw enough attention to any particular emergency, and harder still to actually make a difference. My line of work very much relies on the idea that substantial change is possible and achievable, so the feeling that it isn’t is difficult to confront. Wrapping it up in little song packages as Muse does is often what makes this stuff easier for me to process.

Oh, and Matt Bellamy shouting swearwords will never not be hilarious.


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