You never know quite what you’re going to get whenever Muse releases new material. Spanning their now seven album career, the UK-based band has jittered around in the realm progressive rock, sometimes leaning more towards metal or arena rock but lately tending to favor more dubstep and electro influenced sounds.

On their latest effort, titled Drones (Warner Bros/Helium-3), the band strays away from the more glam and glitter of the previous album. Lead single “Dead Inside” also opens the album but could also serve double duty as the background music in an 80’s Synth-ercise video. Thundering drums sound ripped straight from The Scorpions and every kid with Guitar Hero 4 will wet himself thinking about the solo potential throughout the song. It is these singles that are the weakest points of the whole album however.

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After a brief but fairly painfully heavy handed voice acting interlude called “Drill Sergeant,” we’re treated to maybe the most cliched riff on the whole album courtesy of the second single “Psycho.” You may not have actually heard the exact progression of “Psycho” before, but trust me, you’ve heard this tune a million times and just because they’re Muse does not forgive crappy voice acting and trite guitar squeals. It’s also incredibly hard to take anyone seriously as they deliver these lines of the chorus: “I’m gonna make you/I’m gonna break you/I’m gonna make you/A f*cking psycho/Your ass belongs to me now.”

“Reapers” serves as a comfort on the album, if only because now you know that the kid who used to chug Mountain Dew practice extended finger tapping Dragonforce style guitar solos still has something to aspire to in 2015. Seriously, it’s 2015, how do people still like listening to a guy just playing as fast as he can up and down a scale?

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Just like the guy with the ponytail who would always invite you to his LAN parties at his mom’s ranch house, Muse will never be cool no matter how hard they try. Prog-rock bands like Rush, or Genesis tried for a while and it could be argued that for  a while Muse actually succeeded where their predecessors had failed. Not many bands can sell out arenas while also playing music made up of Ok Computer-era Radiohead levels of experimentation. It’s just that this latest foray feels way less Coheed and Cambria and far too much Velvet Revolver.

The saddest part of this album is how good we know Muse can be. Muse will never make a Sticky Fingers or a Sgt. Peppers style album that changes their chosen genre as we know it; they are at their best when they have a concept and actually follow through. The whole surveillance state and Big Brother motif is more than played out here and listeners are left wishing Muse had contributed something more original to the conversation, rather than just adding their own noise.

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