Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Looking at the world, examining its ups and downs, it doesn’t require a degree in musicology to see that the current state of music is disappointing and on a downward spiral. It’s gone from the sweet and gentle 60s, to the rocky 70s, to the loud 80s and poppy 90s, to the confusing period we live in today. Music is just not the same. There is nothing fresh, and we are bombarded by music from a generation that relies on sextapes and daring acts to promote their works, rather than any real craft. In steps Muse’s The 2nd Law, reminding us that amidst the rumble we can still find the finest gold.
Muse, the English rock band who have specialized in drama rock for a full decade, have put together a record worth celebrating. The trio’s sixth album, the 2nd Law, is inspired by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that all natural and technological processes proceed in such a way that the availability of the remaining energy decreases. In all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves an isolated system, the entropy of that system increases. Energy continuously flows from being concentrated, to becoming dispersed, spread out, wasted, and useless. New energy cannot be created and high-grade energy is being destroyed. The theory is quoted in the dubstep Skrillex inspired track Unsustainable, which brings together the vast and varied ideas on the album.
Like a chameleon dancing on a Smartie box, Muse change-up and disguise their sound from track to track, crossing a full spectrum of musical ideas and drawing on heavy influences from Queen, Radiohead, Bowie, James Bond, U2 and even… dubstep. The 2nd Law makes a clear statement: Muse is stepping out of their comfort zone. And we’re better for it.
Muse boldly strides out with a monstrous guitar riff in the opening moments of the brashly titled Supremacy. Only moments later, Bellamy steps out behind the microphone into the spotlight and calms everything down, only to shriek into the ear-splitting chorus again – as if it were a musical of sorts. Muse’s love for cinema is all over the new record, sound effects and storylines to boot. Supremacy is perfectly suited as a James Bond theme, big on orchestral strings, thumping bass line and big guitar riffs. It’s much more fitting to Skyfall than Adele’s effort.
The sexy and slick synth driven Madness is an infectious understated single that’s clearly meant to be a little funny, but isn’t meant to be a joke. “I… I can’t get this memories out of my mind/And some kind of Madness/Has started to evolve, mmn.” Bellamy shows off some falsetto in the U2 inspired track, before changing direction again with Panic Station, a 70s sounding manifesto loaded with brass horns. Perhaps a funkier take on Another One Bites the Dust?
The 2012 Olympics theme song, Survival’s DNA is made up of one part Queen and another of Paul McCartney’s Wings. As one critic politely put it, “Somebody in Hollywood should put Muse out of their misery and make a sequel to Flash Gordon. It’s the soundtrack the band were put on earth to write…” Survival proves just that. It’s a triumphant and loud Queen-sized rock anthem, filled with guitar solos and apocalyptic choirs – too epic to fail.
Follow Me opens up with Matt Bellamy’s baby’s heartbeat, only days before Kate Hudson gave birth. There is a little Tim Burton hidden within Follow Me, a song dedicated to his unborn. “When darkness falls/And surrounds you/When you fall down/When you’re scared, and you’re lost/Be brave”.
Animals is clearly inspired by Radiohead. It could easily be mistaken for a track from OK Computer. Bellamy wails his way through the track and continues onto Explorers, which is pretty much more of the same thing. They are beautiful ballads, especially Explorers, which I found myself listening to over and over.
Up to this point The 2nd Law is a flawless album. Unfortunately, the tail end of the album is forgettable. Big Freeze, Save Me and Liquid State are the odd ones out, fitted just to fill the gap. Even the lyricless dubstep closing tracks, The 2nd Law: Unsustainable and The 2nd Law: Isolated System, carry more weight.
Music is defined on Dictionary.com as “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.” Muse have succeeded on all levels with The 2nd Law. Had it not been for the three lacklustre tracks it could have been a flawless five-star album. It’s uplifting to know that there is still a hope for modern music and that there still are a few carrying the torch and moving forward. The 2nd Law is among the best albums of the year.