ALBUM REVIEW: MUSE – THE 2ND LAW

Matt Bellamy just couldn’t help himself. While Muse worked on their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law, he took to Twitter and made an outrageous promise. He said they were working on a “Christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia”.

No one batted an eyelid. This is Muse after all, and surely this is all tongue-in-cheek fun? But the big moment came when the group dropped an album teaser video revealing that their music did actually feature dubstep, just as he’d promised. The battle lines were drawn as some fans gasped and switched off while others applauded and enjoyed the latest chapter in the band’s creativity (and indulgence).

The 2nd Law
is another grandiose slab from the band but where it differs from their earlier work is in the details. In 2012 Muse may still be preoccupied with things like the impending apocalypse but musically they are all over the shop, throwing in everything and the kitchen sink with music that name checks: prog, electro, rock, dubstep, pop, metal and rock opera.

The result is rather overwhelming because of the sheer number of ideas and concepts at play. The lyrics touch on the world ending and Bellamy’s own personal relationships with his wife Kate Hudson and new son Bingham plus politics, science, current affairs and alcoholism, to name a few. It makes for a disjointed listen that plays less like an album and more like the band gathering their devotees around to have a boast about the depth and breadth of their musical and general knowledge (or the tracks on their Ipods). The record will no doubt be a hit amongst the younger crowd as opinions will be divided and you can already see people picking and choosing the songs they think are killer (rather than filler).

But let us cast a look back at influences because Muse has plenty of them and wear these on their sleeves.” Supremacy” opens with some heavy guitar work that means it fits somewhere between Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and a Black Sabbath riff. It’s an up-tempo guitar track that is not a major leap away from their previous work and in no way indicative of what is to come. At other moments it seems reminiscent of Wings’ “Live & Let Die” while “Madness” takes a leaf out of another old book with some space rock in the key of Queen.

Things fragment from here with some classical piano straight out of a black and white film in “Prelude” while “Follow Me” is the first look at the band tackling dubstep. It is only a minor part of this track but is reprised and realised more fully in “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable”. Here a news report is mashed up with an orchestra before it morphs into a heavy number about thermodynamics.

“Survival” was a single used at the London Olympics. It is full of pomp and romping sounds as a choir again creates a vibe not unlike Queen. But on “Big Freeze” the group turn their collective sights to U2 as the guitars sound like they’re straight out of The Edge’s songbook sitting somewhere between “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “I Will Follow”. It’s a different feel to the following downbeat tales of alcoholism that were written and performed by the band’s bassist, Chris Wolstenholme in” Save Me” and “Liquid State”.

Muse’s
The 2nd Law is a dramatic, rich and epic spectacular. It’s an ambitious move and a progression forward but there is no doubt that some fans will be alienated by the sheer weight of abstract pretentious on offer and find it all far too confounding and overblown. But others still would argue that that’s just another day in the office for Muse.

Originally published on 23 October 2012 at the following website: http://www.the59thsound.com/muse—the-2nd-law-23102012.html

Visit The 59th Sound’s homepage at: http://www.the59thsound.com/

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