English rock band, Muse, are back with their sixth studio album, The 2nd Law. I’ve been a Muse fan since their third album, “Absolution” (which was released in 2003), and have subsequently seen the band explore a number of musical styles since then.
The 2nd Law is almost like a homage to every sound Muse has ever experimented with; there’s heavy rock tracks, tender ballads, progressive rock numbers, and even a few electronica songs. Though the eclectic mix might sound like a bit of a headache on paper, lead singer/guitarist, Matthew Bellamy and his bandmates (Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard), seem to weave through each genre pretty flawlessly.
The album begins with some killer guitar riffs courtesy of “Supremacy”. The track definitely calls to mind some of Muse’s earlier pop/rock tracks, and has just the right amount of guitar and energetic vocals to set the album off to a thrilling start.
The disc leads right into the current single, “Madness”, which is the clear highlight of the album. From the stuttering repetition of title, to the pulsating beat and Bellamy’s sultry vocals, the song is incredibly sexy, seductive and amazingly catchy. It’s got the markings of a perfect radio hit, but the song is also one that Muse should be extremely proud of as a band; it’s one of those rare tracks that you hear, instantly love and can’t get enough of.
I’m also a big fan of the album’s first single, “Survival”. The track did get a lot of criticism for being “over the top”, but hell- it’s Muse we’re talking about here…and a good glam-rock track is supposed to be over the otp. Anyway, I instantly loved the lyrics about striving to make it to the top (the track was actually written for the 2012 Olympic Games), and even more so loved the heavy guitar, drums, backing chorus, of course, Bellamy’s strong vocal delivery. The final note of the song always manages to give me chills – in a good way, of course.
I was going to keep my Queen/Freddie Mercury comparisons down to a bare minimum, but how could anyone listen to “Panic Station” without Queen coming to mind? The beat sounds pretty similar to “Another One Bites the Dust” and Bellamy does his best Mercury impression as he purrs over the lyrics. This isn’t a bad thing, though- I’ve always been a fan of a funky beat and this song definitely has one. Even if I do feel like I’m revisiting the 70’s while listening to it.
Another standout is the downtempo ballad, “Follow Me”. The track definitely calls to mind some of Muse’s earlier work during the opening verses; production is stripped back to a few quiet synthesizers and vocals. However, by the chorus, the song segues into a dubstep break and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me Skrillex was a collaborator on this one. Funnily enough, it all works really well together, and makes for a sensual, exciting song.
“Save Me” is a more traditional ballad, and easily one of the most beautiful Muse songs I’ve ever heard (second to my old favorite, “Falling Away With You”). The track has a new wave feel which works well, and Bellamy sounds earnest and endearing as he sings, “Don’t let me go, ’cause I’m nothing without you.” Though the lyrics and melody are simplistic, the simplicity is well-received after some of the louder, heavier tracks on the album.
Every song can’t be a hit, however. Though “Animals” is heavy on political commentary, the melody lacks any other sort of statement and just sort of plays on as background music. “Explorers” is a pretty ballad, sounding similar to a lullaby, but never really progresses to anything more than tinkly piano and hushed vocals, making it an easy song to pass on. “Liquid State” has a bit of a punk/rock sound to it, but even the change of style doesn’t save the song from falling into mediocrity.
The worst offender, however, is “Big Freeze”. I know Muse has always been about making political statements in their music, but I don’t really want to mix anti-global warming statements with my pop music, thank you. Especially when said songs sound like a lackluster Muse-inspired track that some up-and-coming “artist” would sing on his Yamaha, instead of something by an actual established band. I think it’s safe to say “Big Freeze” is my least favorite track on the album.
I know I made a joke about dubstep and Skrillex earlier, but “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” sounds like something right out of Skrillex’s debut album. Again, I’m surprised by the fact that Muse can pull off a dubstep song, because this track just sounds cool. Maybe non-fans of dubstep wouldn’t appreciate it, but I think the track goes over well and fades in perfectly with “The 2nd Law: Isolated System”. The second half of the song is a minimalistic number, which really does nothing more than tie the album up with an instrumental piece and news clips about the dismal state of the world we live in.
Overall, The 2nd Law is a strong effort from Muse. The variety of genres which the band explores, I believe, is less about Muse not knowing their niche, and more about Muse fully embracing the fact they have the creativity as a band not to be pigeonholed into just one kind of music. How could you not appreciate a statement of artistry such as that?