Muse takes step backward with ‘The 2nd Law’
Album Review | 2.5 out of 5 stars
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 08:10
Five years ago, Muse was still fairly unknown. But the group has since skyrocketed to fame, becoming the first rock band to play at the new Wembley Stadium in London and releasing their fifth studio album, “The Resistance,” in 2009. The band became still more internationally renowned when its song, “Survival,” was chosen as the official song of this summer’s London Olympic Games.
The forthcoming release of Muse’s sixth studio album, “The 2nd Law,” was therefore highly anticipated by fans and the curious public alike. What was produced, however, is an amalgamation of confused genres vying with each other to stand out. Opening song “Supremacy” is guitar-driven rock with an epic symphonic backing soundtrack. Yet even with all the extra bits Muse has piled on, the song still lacks the integral melodic aptness Muse displays on so many previous tracks. Lead singer Matt Bellamy sings the phrase “Greatness dies” during this song – a claim that could be applied to his band, although the lyric was probably not as self-referential as it sounds.
The next track and first single released off of the album, “Madness,” is obviously Queen-inspired. Bellamy’s obsession with Freddie Mercury was not clear until the first single off Muse’s previous album, “United States of Eurasia,” was released in 2009 to the confusion and disappointment of many fans.
“Panic Station” has elements of both ’80s David Bowie and Prince, along with Michael Jackson and some bonus slap bass. Although it is a completely different sound for the band, it is one of the more appealing songs on the album. “Survival” is hardly worth mentioning since it received so much press over the summer. Its melodrama may appeal to some, but it hardly reaches the epic levels that Muse has reached before.
“Follow Me’s” beginning features the heartbeat of Bellamy’s newborn son, as recorded on Bellamy’s iPhone. It was produced by dubstep/drum and bass connoisseurs Nero, and it marks the band’s attempt to branch out into the electronic stratosphere. Oddly, the track is somewhat successful, likely because of Nero’s input.
The song is an ode to fatherhood, a strange concept for a band that usually deals with themes such as the apocalypse and how the government has spies that record information on everybody. Hearing Bellamy sing, “You can trust in me / I will always protect you, my love /Feel my love” is pretty strange.
There are no memorable tracks in the middle of the album, and both “Animals” and “Explorers” are rather forgettable and uninteresting. Though both deal with incredibly pertinent and interesting topics — “Animals” is about the stock market collapse — the songs themselves don’t hold enough weight. Still, the guitar solo towards the middle of “Animals” makes the song worth listening to.
The biggest change on this album is that bassist Chris Wolstenholme sings on two songs, “Save Me” and “Liquid State.” Both songs deal with his recovery from alcoholism and show a hugely different side of the man who usually just headbangs along with his awesome bass riffs.
The album takes a sudden turn on the last two tracks. “The 2nd Law — Unsustainable” delivers elements of dubstep with Bellamy’s unique operatic vocals soaring over the top of a recording of Channel 4 news reporter Katie Razzall robotically stating, “All natural and technological processes proceed in such a way the availability of the remaining energy decreases
an economy based on endless growth is unsustainable.” This is a small taste of the progression in lyrics Muse has gone through since earlier albums such as “Absolution” (2003), the band’s first addressing of pseudo-apocalyptic themes.
The second part to this song, “Isolated System,” is reminiscent of the three-part symphony that Muse tacked onto the end of its last album, “The Resistance” (2009) and it followed the same sparse instrumental buildup until the bass and other instruments hit the apex.
There are moments of grandeur which make this album worth listening to once, but in comparison to what Muse has previously been capable of, “The 2nd Law” is a step backwards.