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Muse – The 2nd Law

Muse are one of the rare bands who can write their own ticket and do whatever it is they want.  The 2nd Law marks their 6th album and so far they are pretty much 5 for 5 in the perfection department.  They’ve stated in the press that this album would be very different from their prior efforts which has terrified many a Muse fan, myself included.  How far is too far? The 2nd Law is too far it seems.

Muse dabbled in orchestral rock in their last album The Resistance which was one of my favorite albums of last decade.    They continue to delve even deeper in to orchestral themes, along with the infilitration of dub-step and hard synth.  I had heard that dub-step was prevelant all over this album, but I only really see echoes of that scene, and it actually makes the album interesting at times.

The album opens with Supremacy a track that sounds like it’s been pulled from the next soundtrack to the new James Bond film.  Excessive, and it paints the tone for the rest of the album.  The first single Madness follows, a song that sounds more like a remix of a bad Queen song (think Hot Space era) instead of the band that has always fascinated me.

Panic Station attempts to create a bad Robert Palmer meets Tower of Power song.  Survival dives in to full on Opera territory, but at least we hear some of those classic guitar tones that have definied the band over the years.  Follow Me showcases singer Matt Bellamy’s love of Skrillex and dub-step, which actually works here and makes for an interesting version of a power ballad.

Animals is classic Muse.  A perfect balance of melody and arena rock sized guitar-riffs, all with just the right touch of hard-dive synth.  It’s what I was hoping the entire album was going to be.  Explorers is a decent, simple, lullaby.  Big Freeze jump backs in to that 80’s era Queen era but is fresh enough to not sound completely dated It actually had my head bobbing along after a while.  Save Me showcases bassist Chris Welstenhome on vocals.  The problem is it doesn’t sound like Muse, and doesn’t really belong on the album.  They fire back with Liquid State, also sung by WelstenhomeIt’s not bad, but again…why?  It just doesn’t belong.  This is a Muse album, not a landscape for solo efforts.

The album ends with The 2nd Law: Unsustainable and The 2nd Law: Isolated System, a two part symphonic song arc.   Part 1 is a lift off into outer space, something the album could have used more of.  Part 2 is a massive, symphonic mystery of a song.  It made me wanting more, and wishing that it’s what the album would have set out to do from the beginning.  Muse has earned the right to do whatever it is they want with their music, but The 2nd Law misfires in a big way.

I’ll also be the first to admit that the first time I heard The Resistance I couldn’t figure out if it was complete garbage or genius, but only because I had never really heard something like it ever really.  It took time and multiple listens to process.  Maybe I’m wrong here and The 2nd Law will grow on me over time, but I don’t think that’s the case.  It’s all over the place and is easily their weakest album and most poorly realized.   If I’m wrong I’ll let you know.

The 2nd Law is an interesting listen and is impressive in its scope at times.  The problem is that after a few listens you won’t really want to listen to it again, and the reason Muse has become one of my favorite bands is because I’ve constantly put their albums on repeat over the years.  Muse gets too caught up in orchestration and trying to out-do themselves, and for the most part forgets about writing kick ass songs.   They are delving deeper into “Rock Opera” territory here, but their high brow concepts will fall on generally deaf ears.

Grade: B-