What do you do when a band that you’ve been a fan of since their birth changes their style in such a radical way, that it makes you feel almost as though the band that you liked in the beginning has become so far removed from what you once loved? Do you stick by them and defend them to others by saying “At least their sound is evolving!!” until you’re blue in the face? Or do you take a second to step back and look at the band’s previous body of work in order to make a fair judgment of the new direction that they’re now heading.. That was the conundrum that was bestowed upon me at the start of the week when I decided to listen to The 2nd Law, the new album by British symphonic space rockers Muse..
Now.. Before I get the review started there’s one thing that I really need to address.. And that’s that I’ve been a fan of Muse and just about everything that they’ve done since their beginning… When Muse get it right, they nail it. And although I think that over the course of the past few years that my own musical taste has perhaps outgrown them a little, I still think that I have the ability to try to write a fair and (hopefully) non-biased review of their new album.. I must admit that I found it incredibly hard to adjust to what the band has tried to do with The 2nd Law.. However, I do think that some people out there will lap it up a lot more than I did.. So I do feel the need to give caution that this review is obviously just one man’s opinion.. Please don’t start a flame war if you don’t agree with how I feel.. If you’ve heard it, and you love it then that’s great! On with the review!
The album starts out with Supremacy, a 5-minute track that managed to make me ask myself if Matt Bellamy’s ego had actually managed to expand to critical mass and implode… Man… Supremacy just managed to come off as so incredibly self-indulgent and over the top that after listening to the album for about the third time I just had to skip it from there on out.. Bellamy manages to reach such an obnoxiously high-pitched squeal in the song’s chorus that it gave me an earache.. Sounding a little something like he has had the ghost of Freddie Mercury trapped in his basement for the last few years and was forcing him to write songs for The 2nd Law, this song just didn’t resonate with me at all..
Continuing on from the almost too OTT intro track, The 2nd Law shifts into a very laid back groove with Madness, a song that at first listen I absolutely detested.. But after many, many repeat listens I actually found it to be semi-refreshing.. Although the lyrics seem to ooze the same kind of cheese that you’d hear in a song by a Top 10 pop artist, Madness did in fact remind me that sometimes Muse are really at their best when things are laid bare and kept simple… For a band that has fully embraced technology as a part of their album writing process they really do manage to hit the nail on the head when they slow things down..
Having spoken about the band’s strengths when it comes to laying things bare, I think it’s now time to address some of the tracks that really had me struggling to listen to during my week with The 2nd Law.. For starters there’s the albums first single, Survival.. A song that was somewhat of an anthem during the Olympics earlier this year.. This track once again served as one of those moments that made me wonder whether Matt Bellamy is even listening to some of the stuff that he and the band are laying down in the recording studio.. With lyrics such as “And I’ll light the fuse / And I’ll never lose / And I choose to survive / Whatever it takes / You won’t pull ahead / I’ll keep up the pace / And I’ll reveal my strength /To the whole human race” you’d almost think that Survival was penned by a 16-year-old who’d entered into a song writing contest for their favourite football team.. The lyrics are that bad..
Secondly, songs like the 80′s throw-back Panic Station feel almost completely out-of-place here.. I managed to cringe just about every time Bellamy did his best “WAAAAA!” in this song… I don’t know if it’s just me, but I really didn’t understand what direction Muse set their sails for when they put this album together.. The 2nd Law really does feel like a mixed bag of ideas that never completely fall into one cohesive package.. And as many fans feared when the album was first announced, there’s Dub-step thrown into the mix here too… The 2nd Law : Unsustainable surely has to be an example of one of the band’s more ridiculous moments in recent memory… Still.. as I said earlier, some folks out there will lap it up.. Unfortunately I didn’t..
Now… For all of the not so great stuff on this album, there are a few moments where the band manages to change things up a little for the better.. Although for me there were more valleys than peaks on this record, I found that the two tracks that were composed by the band’s long-term bassist Christopher Wolstenholme, Liquid State and Save Mewere welcome additions here.. The first time I actually heard both of these tracks I thought that someone at the record pressing factory was having a joke with me.. I genuinely thought that I’d gotten a dud copy of the album.. But not in a bad way… Whilst both felt like they could have been recorded by just about anyone besides Muse, I was drawn to both equally.. It really makes me happy to see that Christopher got a chance to shine as a frontman for a short time here.. It certainly beats the hell out of the whole overdone Dub-step thing.. that’s for sure..
Well… What more is there to say? Is The 2nd Law a monumental failure that’s going to ruin Muse’s credibility? Not a chance.. Is it the album that I was hoping for? Definitely not.. Do you think that Muse is going to release an album made entirely of Dub-step nonsense in the future? At this point, it’s anyones guess… Having addressed all of that I’m lead to an interesting point that I’ve always been very passionate about.. And that’s experimentation in music.. Some bands choose to do it and the pay-off is incredible.. Such as The Flaming Lips incredibly imaginative 2009 release Embryonic.. Or just about anything that’s ever been released by Deerhoof..
And then there’s those times where a band makes so many fundamental changes to the sound that endeared them to their audience that it almost alienates the fans that loved them in the first place.. This is one of those times.. But, if artists never experimented with their sound, quite frankly we’d be listening to the same old shit forever… So on one hand, it’s great that Muse tried to explore new and bold territory with this album.. But on the other, I think that it was perhaps territory that was best left unexplored.. One can only hope that this whole Dub-step thing is just a phase and that Matt Bellamy and co. will realize that they need not follow current trends.. They’re entirely capable of setting their own..
What did YOU think of this album? Love it, or Hate it? Leave a comment below!