Con­cept al­bum tends to drone on

Muse “Drones” ★ 1⁄ 2 (Warner Bros.)

Los Angeles Times - - POP & HISS - — Randall Roberts

Put on your head­phones and strap them onto your ears with a belt. Don’t text, talk, Snapchat, Vine or Tindr for the next 53 min­utes. Sub­mit to a swirl of clumsy metaphors and a been-there-done-that nar­ra­tive and be­come one with “Drones,” the cere­bral new con­cept al­bum by the Bri­tish art rock band Muse.

The con­tem­po­rary rock equiv­a­lent of an An­drew Lloyd Web­ber pro­duc­tion, “Drones” pits man against the Ma­chine, ex­plor­ing mind con­trol through heavy­handed lyrics about mil­i­tarism, “men in cloaks,” a “CIA babe” and re­bel­lion. As such, it ad­dresses ideas bet­ter ex­plored in clas­sic works like Al­dous Hux­ley’s “Brave New World,” Ge­orge Or­well’s “1984” and Mike Judge’s “Idioc­racy.”

Metal con­cept al­bums are a dime a dozen. Early tem­plates such as Yes’ “Tales From To­po­graphic Oceans” be­gat later in­dul­gences from Rush, Queen­sryche and 30 Sec­onds to Mars. At their best, con­cept al­bums sur­prise. Mastodon’s “Leviathan” mas­ter­fully re­told “Moby Dick.” Nor­we­gian black metal band Em­peror’s bru­tal “Prometheus: The Dis­ci­pline of Fire and Demise” was set amid the birth of fire.

Pre­ten­tious? Per­haps, but the real crime here is bland­ness and pre­dictabil­ity. “Drones” is a sim­ple story that reads like a failed short story idea from Sci-Fi 101.

The worst part of “Drones” is how f lat it sounds in the hands of vet­eran pro­ducer Robert “Mutt” Lange. Muse are a mu­si­cian’s mu­si­cians, right­fully lauded for their skills and cre­atively labyrinthic struc­tures. But the drums dur­ing “De­fec­tor” would have sounded dull even in the ’80s, when Lange’s jumbo pro­duc­tion tech­niques pro­pelled acts in­clud­ing For­eigner, Def Lep­pard and AC/DC to the top of the charts. “Drones” sounds like Lange’s stu­dio has been in stor­age ever since.

Given the right fuel, “Drones” might have charged right up.

Un­for­tu­nately, Muse’s ef­forts can barely get off the ground.

Warner Bros.

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