Broken hearts, entropy, Wall Street, electronics and even the Olympics can all be found in the newest record by Muse, titled “The 2nd Law,” named after the Second Law of Thermodynamics quoted in the last song of the album.
Since the end of their last tour, Muse has gone back to the studio and has been working for a little more than a year to produce what the band has called “something radically different.” This album is just that; it is something so radically different from what the band has done before that it’s almost hard to believe it is a Muse album.
For starters, during the album production, Matt Bellamy (guitar/piano/vocals) jokingly commented that the new album will consist of “Christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia,” a statement that is not too far from what “The 2nd Law” actually is and one that made me cringe.
Luckily for them, and for the world of music, “The 2nd Law” isn’t a commercial sellout, but is instead a collection of songs from various backgrounds á la Muse.
The record begins with the powerful “Supremacy,” which features Bellamy’s falsetto and politically involved lyrics that depict the downfall of the banking world. With its rich instrumentation consisting of strings, guitar riffs, and a brass section and with hints of Arabic and Mediterranean influence, “Supremacy” stands out right away and is possibly the best song on the record.
“Panic Station” soon kicks in after “Madness” ends with funky beats and slap bass. Bellamy features some of his best (or worst, depending on your taste) vocals á la Prince in this track and Chris Wolstenholme (bass/secondary vocals) further demonstrates the mastery of the bass with his popping and clean bass thump work. The track is highly recommended in spite of its lack of originality.
“Prelude” preludes “Survival,” the 2012 Olympics’ official theme which I’ve already partially explained earlier on in this review. This track is a mess. It acts as a mash-up of three styles to represent the individualistic desire to win a race, which only makes sense in an Olympic setting. Take it out of that setting, and the song falls flat.
After “Survival,” the remaining songs are mostly a collection of borrowed styles made famous by other musicians. “Follow Me” and “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” are essentially dubstep tracks with a “Musey twist,” with the latter sounding like a cover of a Skrillex tune. “Follow Me,” which features Bellamy’s baby son’s heartbeat in the intro, sounds like a clubbing song out of Cascada’s back catalogue. “Big Freeze” and “Animals” are in the style of Bono and Thom Yorke respectively.
The album’s substance comes, surprisingly, from Wolstenholme’s “Save Me” and “Liquid State,” both of which depict his battle with alcoholism, although the latter sounds like a direct cover out of Queens of The Stone Age or Foo Fighters.
The album ends with a piano concerto in “Isolated System,” depicting the end of the world after a global crisis, leaving the listener with a mixture of confused, though epic, emotions. And that is “The 2nd Law” at its essence: a massive collection of styles mixed into one epic, though incoherent, compulsive album.
It seems that Bellamy and company took their praise for being an epic band a bit too seriously and took it to the next level, except this time, they left a lot of their originality out and replaced it with other artists’ sound.
Final Rating: 3/5