With the cries of “back to their roots” emerging like strangled breath from pre-Resistance Muse fans, the band dropped a new song fresh from their studio sessions with AC/DC producer Robert Lange. But I hasten to disagree that Psycho bears any resemblance to their golden era. Simply put, the roots of Muse are in complex, intricate guitar playing, somehow folded into tight, accessible and highly entertaining rock songs. Tracks like Plug In Baby, Knights Of Cydonia and Hysteria all struck a perfect balance between show-stopping playing and incredible catchiness. Psycho, by contrast, labours on a bog standard four-note riff for the majority of the song. Although sonically brutal and meaty, it doesn’t feel fresh or new or exciting like some of their early material did. This is probably due to the fact that the riff is recycled from extended instrumental end sections of various Muse concerts from over the years, which does of course give it one saving grace, as with all Muse tracks: It’ll be fantastic to play live.
Muse’s political persuasions are nothing new; Matt Bellamy has been incorporating conspiracy theories and government injustices into his lyrics as far back as 1999’s Showbiz. It’s good to hear a band tackling political issues, and certainly more interesting than your average love theme. The problem however, is that Matt Bellamy simply does not have the lyrical subtlety to pull off these kind of ideas, this track being a perfect example. The lyrics should enable the listener to, if they so desire, project themselves into the song, and maybe even to change the meaning to reflect their own political ideas. Does Psycho do this? Absolutely not. The lyrics, at times, are SO absurd and childish that I wonder if Muse have descended into self parody. The song begins with a sample of an officer screaming orders at a private, and a line from that dialogue “your ass belongs to me now” makes its way into the song…as the chorus. Whilst I appreciate the link between sample and song so that the two are interlinked, I find it impossible to believe that this was honestly the best line Bellamy could have come up with for this section. Particularly with “ass” being such an American insult; in an English accent it just sounds sort of ridiculous. Another problem with this track’s lyrics is that it made me agree with a YouTube commenter, all of whom, as we know, are the scum of the Earth. He rightly stated that the inclusion of curse words does nothing for the song, or Muse as a band. In genres such as heavy Metal and Rap, the inclusion of swear words adds to the anger and energy of that genre, but elsewhere it just comes across as lazy songwriting. But then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that’s heard this track.
Yet somehow, even despite these criticisms, Psycho is actually largely enjoyable. It’s cliché and bland and really one of Muse’s most lacklustre songs. However, the production is excellent, the vocals, though delivered via terrible lyrics, are melodically pleasing, and the groove of the track, thanks to Matt, Dom and Chris being one of the tightest bands around, is fantastic. If you want cheap thrills, Psycho is the bargain bucket of rock and roll. I’d liken it to an under 12s rollercoaster at Legoland. Sure, it’s fun the first couple of times round, but after a while you’re gonna want to move onto the better rides.