The 2nd Law

Muse

Warner Brothers, 2012

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/14/2017

So how do you follow up an album that was already over the top? Bigger! Better! More! Shazam!

That’s how it feels listening to Muse’s sixth album, which simply magnifies everything that the superb The Resistance offered in 2009. Problem is, without catchy songs, all the studio trickery and Queen homages are simply hollow Christmas presents.

Yes, it’s sonically impressive. Three guys manage to cause this much noise. Layer upon layer of vocals, booming drums, and both guitars and synthesizers sheathed in echo create a nonstop, grandiose epic-sounding listen. And because every Muse album must have at least one great single, “Panic Station” gets the nod this time, a stomping rocker about taking control and living your own life regardless of those who bring you down.

But then that leads into the ridiculous “Survival,” the Olympic theme song from the London 2012 games which I think both Brits and Muse fans have tried to forget. The band known for sweeping statements, who by all rights should have knocked it out of the park, went a little too over the top (that brief Satriani-esque hammer-on guitar solo in the middle will make you chuckle). And that song – the Olympic theme! – is not even the most epic moment here. That is an honor that probably belongs to leadoff track “Supremacy,” which just goes balls-out into the end zone while the listener frantically tries to keep up (is that a Zeppelin beat there? Spy guitar in the middle? Someone shouting “supremacy” and holding that last note for at least 10 minutes? Gah!).  nbtc__dv_250

Oh yeah, and then the band goes full electronic robotic on the title track, with all sorts of dubstep whiz-bang sound effects that Keith Emerson was likely proud of before Bellamy begins wailing something in the background. The second half of the title track (subtitled “Isolated Systems”) is a piano ballad with some recorded voices about worldwide collapse and a string section that builds to a grand finale. It’s very similar to the three-part “Exogenesis” suite from the previous disc but is more successful, ending the album perfectly.

More interesting are those moments where Muse continues to reach for something different and new, rather than just piling on more layers to the same old sounds. “Save Me” allows Matt Bellamy to step aside and let bassist Chris Wolstenholme write and sing the song, and it’s a melancholy, midtempo piece that you’ll want to hear again, even if it is at odds with the overblown rest of the album (like “Follow Me”). Following that is “Liquid State,” another Wolstenholme composition and a chugging hard rocker with a Foo Fighters/Queens Of The Stone Age influence. Together, this makes up the strongest section of the album (along with “Panic Station”). I don’t know if Wolstenholme has considered a solo career, but I would listen to it in a heartbeat.

The theme this time around is the second law of thermodynamics, with a few nods to Icarus and overpopulation, but it’s less sci-fi than it sounds because Bellamy and crew make it seem a little more personal; as evinced on the lyrics to “Panic Station,” the cold truth is that we are responsible for our actions both personally and as a society. It’s a fine concept, and at times it is carried through perfectly. But the end result of The 2nd Law is a mishmash of reflective songs, overblown melodrama, same-old-Muse, and a handful of experiments that may point the way forward. That’s not to say the album is disjointed – it’s too good for that – but it’s certainly a letdown from the previous two Muse efforts simply because it tries so hard.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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