The 2nd Law
Breathtaking, thrilling, and operatic are just three words you could use to describe the English band Muse. From their leap onto the scene with 1999’s "Showbiz" to their last effort "The Resistance," Muse has proven to be a singular band with its own personal style and vision. Whatever you think of their sometimes over-the-top orchestrations, crazy guitar riffs, and Hans Zimmer-esque pronouncements, Muse is daring and original and they kinda’ do whatever they want to do. This is highly evident in their latest release "The 2nd Law" which dances between radio-friendly rock, dramatic pop-anthems, and even a little dub-step. While their lyrics run from the simple - "Life’s a race, That I’m gonna win, Yes I’m gonna win, And it’ll light the fuse, And I’ll never lose, And I choose to survive" - to the blisteringly profound- ""Wake to see, your true emancipation is a fantasy. Policies have risen up and overcome the brave. Greatness dies, unsung and lost, invisible to history, embedded spies, brainwashing our children to be mean," in their latest disc you sort of have it all.
Opening with "Supremacy," it is clear Muse is at its full-power glory with an anthem that runs from fast to slow to quiet to stadium-loud. There are strings, synthesizers, guitars and the operatic voice of front man Matt Bellamy - all colliding into an all-encompassing orgasm of a song. Thankfully, they immediately give you a breather with the second track "Madness" that steadily builds to a climax that is emotionally powerful.
The rest of the album is hit or miss in how addictive it will be ("Black Holes and Revelations" being probably their most repeatable album to date). "Panic Station" hits all the Bellamy and Muse notes and "Survival" - written as a 2012 Olympics theme song - feels a bit forced. "Follow Me" has "next single" written all over it and features Bellamy’s baby’s heartbeat in the opening (recorded days before wife Kate Hudson gave birth.) With a bit of a 70’s vibe, it rocks into this century when the dub-step comes giddily in.
Slowing it down with "Animals" and "Explorers" (a lullaby written for Bellamy’s son) this seems like the calm before the storm, or at least the bathroom break during the concert. Things pick up with "Big Freeze" which has a U2 feel about it, and two songs sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme who has never sung lead before. It’s a bit of a shocker if you’re not expecting it, because it does feel like you’re suddenly listening to another CD. Some of the Muse music-scape is there, but the tonal quality of Wolstenholme’s voice is dramatically different and takes some getting used to. Don’t get me wrong, I like it. But it doesn’t exactly feel like Muse.
At the end of the disc are the Muse orchestral fantasy-type tracks straight out of a dystopian "Dune." (Their records always make me feel like I’m on another planet.)
With "The 2nd Law - Unsustainable" they mix in movie-score gallivanting with dub-step supposedly recorded with non-electronic instruments! The final track "The2nd Law - Isolated System" uses fake news broadcasts to state their political and environmental case for making a better planet. It’s a bit of a strange way to end a record that could truly stand in for a Rock Opera. But with "The 2nd Law" Muse proves again they are a band like no other and make no apologies for it. This is why they appeal to so many and why their concerts are probably the most spectacular shows around today.