Muse – The 2nd Law (2012): Review

Hack Stats
Independent On Sunday – 9
Kerrang! – 8
Mojo – 8
The Telegraph – 8
The Fly – 8
NME – 8
Uncut – 8
Q Magazine – 8
The Guardian – 8
Drowned In Sound – 8
BBC Music – 7
The Observer – 6
The Hackskeptic – 6
Music OMH – 5
The Quietus – 4

Average Rating – 7.3/10

Produced by Muse, Nero
Label – Helium 3/Warners

The one thing we often miss amongst the bombast and blusterous music of Muse is that it harnesses leader Matt Bellamy’s latest abstract musical concepts. “The 2nd Law” is at least more direct in its message with much of this sixth original record referencing the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which theorizes that over time, the differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential of an equilibrate system can destroy the system itself. Ridiculous as it may seem to incorporate such apocalyptic scenarios in a chart album and given that lyrical intent has little importance in modern music, it’s likely that the message will undoubtedly be lost on your average downloading punter. What is more noticeable however, as was hinted at on 2009s “The Resistance” is a shift away from the hardened alternative rock with operatic overtones of previous releases to a new scattergun approach which dips into modernistic programmed beats and bleeps, brostep and 80s revivalist funk rock and power ballad styles. This hotch potch of sonic combinations still retains Muse’s sense for the spectacular with heavily laden string, horn, guitar and keyboard accompaniments that identify each song with a familiar over the top motif. As Bellamy flippantly posted on his twitter account, there’s some truth in his description of the album as “Christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia,” Bellamy’s dip in the genre bucket doesn’t always pull out fruit and one’s biggest disappointment is that although there are still some thrilling moments, “The 2nd Law” seems to lack some focus, and that Muse are losing the fundamental essence of what has made them one of the premier rock acts of the last decade.

As is customary with every Muse release the opener is both dynamic and memorable in equal parts. The theme music for a Bond film as yet produced, “Supremacy” is as epic as its title suggests as Bellamy runs the full gamut of his vocal prowess to a military rhythm and powerful orchestral score. The single “Madness” is a pure pop/rock song that salutes Queen’s early 80s chart assaults. “Panic Station” follows with a pumped up bass groove that imitates the 80s funk/rock of The Power Station and INXS and is as awkward and outdated as Muse continue to grapple with a style of music that they really don’t understand. The monumental histrionics of Olympian themed “Survival” are so over egged; Bellamy becomes a figure of absurd hilarity. “Animals” by contrast is a quieter affair that carefully builds in intensity, and is probably more familiar to Muse roots, containing some sweet and rare guitar interplay to a story of capitalist greed and closes out with the angry animations from the stock trader’s floor.

Bass player Chris Wolstenholme chips in with two songs that really save the back end of the record. “Save Me” is a sweet ballad that drifts along as the singer’s gentle baritone forms a welcome contrast to Bellamy’s whine, snarl and often ugly falsetto, whilst “Liquid State” could compare favourably to a decent Foo Fighters album track in its execution. The closer and title track is split into two. “Unsustainable”, the well documented experiment in dubstep is as awful as one would expect. With a female news reader reporting our impending doom the repetitive robotic “Unsustainable” interruption and the huge thudding bass beats make for something more cliché ridden and ironic than fresh and original. “Unsustainable” is a boring synth instrumental that Robert Miles championed 15 years ago.

“The 2nd Law” finds Muse trapped between their own overtly commercial senses, and an insistence to throw too many influencers and styles in the mix which results in an album that lacks cohesion and identity.

6/10

Track Listing
1 – Supremacy
2 – Madness
3 – Panic Station
4 – Prelude
5 – Survival
6 – Follow Me
7 – Animals
8 – Explorers
9 – Big Freeze
10 – Save Me
11 – Liquid State
12 – The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
13 – The 2nd Law: Isolated System

Survival

Madness

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