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Muse at Little Caesars Arena, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2019

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Few bands have presented quite as much of a moving target over 20 years as Muse.

Since the 1999 release of "Showbiz," the British trio has covered a great deal of ground across its eight studio albums, from straight-up hard rock to more progressive styles and electronic experiments -- often accompanied by groundbreaking and cutting-edge live show productions. That can certainly make it challenging to hold onto an audience, but it's seemed to work for Muse, to the tune of more than 20 million albums sold worldwide, six consecutive No. 1 debuts in its homeland and a pair of Grammy and Brit Awards.

The new "Simulation Theory," meanwhile, is a mish-mash of hard and art rock along with electronic styles -- a departure from the guitar-dominated 2015 set "Drones" and another reminder that the group will follow wherever its, er, muse leads....

"Drones" was an album that left Muse wanting to do something more dramatically different on its follow-up, according to drummer Dominic Howard. "That wasn't much of a left turn at all," he says by phone. "It was more of a nostalgic sound on that album. I much prefer this new album 'cause it's much more of a radical left turn." Singer-guitarist Matt Bellamy adds that, "On the 'Drones' album we went back a little bit to the guitar-based rock side, which didn't feel new to us. So for this album we wanted to reinvent a little bit, update ourselves with what's going on in contemporary music."

"Simulation Theory" also found Muse working with a variety of producers, from the familiar (previous collaborator Rich Costey) to fresh faces Mike Elizondo, Timbaland and Shellback, who brought their experiences in the pop and R&B worlds into Muse's orbit and helped push the group into stylistic areas it hadn't tried before. "I feel like we've managed to break the mold a little bit on this album -- for me personally as well," Bellamy says. "It's broken the mold away from being a bit of an auteur, a bit of a kind of control freak and into being someone who's a bit more open to collaboration and to collaborating with different people and with different genre directions."

Muse embraced a variety of influences for "Simulation Theory," including science fiction and pop culture from the 1980s. Bellamy even credits some of the album's direction with his seven-year-old son's fondness for electronic gaming. "I would watch him playing and remember being his age and experiencing my first gaming, which was things like ZX Spectrum and Atari, all that crazy 80s stuff, and that also threw me into thinking about some of the films I loved back then, like 'Back to the Future' and 'Escape From New York' and the soundtracks from those films. Somewhere in all of that this album ended up being an exploration of both contemporary and futuristic stuff mixed in with nostalgia for my childhood -- a real mish-mash of those things. We like the idea of trying to make music that mixes eras and genres and can sort of in some way transport you. So if you mix, like, 80s synthesizers with romantic classical music on the piano, you wind up with something that's slightly disjoined but also something that can be quite timeless and quite mysterious, and we like that."

Muse is never sure how its fans will react to those changes, however. "I think when you feel a bit weird inside and you're not sure how people might react to what you're doing, that's a good place to be because it only means you're actually trying to do something new," Howard says. "I like spanning that kind of extreme. I don't like the middle ground. We like to think we have some kind of musical bar set pretty high, based on everything we've done so far. But even back on our second and third albums I remember people were like, 'What the hell is this -- but I really like it!' I think that's what may happen here as well."

Considering its 20 years of recording, Howard says Muse prides itself on the changes it's made over the years. "We've always had that thought process of 'We can't repeat. We've done that, we can't do it again. We have to find something new. We've always had that mentality. It's just important for us to evolve as a band and not stay the same. There's plenty of bands that have been out for as long as us that doe one thing and do it great, but for us it's hard to do that. We have to feel like we're always on the fringe of our comfort zones when we're in the studio."

Muse and Walk The Moon perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at Little Caesars Arena, Detroit. $54.50-$99. An Enhanced Experience Mixed Reality Pre-Show Party featuring Virtual Reality games is also available. 313-471-7000 or 313presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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