Tuesday, 2 October 2012
''The 2nd Law'' Muse - A Review
From the very beginnings of their career, Muse were plauged with comparisons to Radiohead, to the point where British record companies were reluctant to sign the trio in spite of their early promise, meaning the band had to go to America in order to get a record deal. It was always a strange accusation, and an unjust one; with the exception of Matthew Bellamy's falsetto laden vocals, their brand of progressive space rock never bore any resemblence to their British peers. In fact, Muse have always taken far more influence from Queen, largely due to the band's fetish for extravagent, ambitous arrangements and their prominent use of exaggerated guitar solo's.
This is a comparison that Bellamy obviously takes great pride in, and since 2005's ''Black Holes and Revelations'' the band have taken several steps towards imitating Freddie Mercury and co., upping the grandoise themes of their work, indtroducing orchestral arrangments and embracing the admittedly cheesy nature of their work. The result of this was the largely overblown and inconsistent ''The Resistance'' in 2009, so change was to be expected, and while ''The 2nd Law'' see's the band continue in this style, there are also some interesting new additions to their sound.
The album kicks off with 'Supremacy', a typically epic opener which makes for a promising start as Bellamy screeches his trademark vocals over a shredded guitar. It all seems to be pretty standard Muse, but from here things get very stange. Lead single 'Madness' is a curious number; a song that would not sound out of place on a Scissor Sisters record, but it sounds as though Muse are comfortable with it, and while perhaps a unusual choice for lead single, 'Madness' works. While you may find Scissor Sisters to be a wild comparison, the funky disco sound of 'Panic Station' is even weirder, and inexplicably similiar to the 'Wham Rap!', which I can't believe is a coincidence. Yes, I just compared Muse to Wham.
From Wham to more familiar territory, 'Survival' recalls a more traditional Muse number that would fit into Origin of Symmetry and as such, is probably the strongest song on the album, while 'Explorers' is a track in the vein of 'Invicible', but while 'Invincible' came off as nothing more than a sappy love poem, 'Explorers' is a more intelligent and less obvious ode which fits nicely into the track listing.
For all of the fuss made about dubstep influences on The 2nd Law, we don't actually hear any of the sort until 'Follow Me', led originally by Bellamy's lone vocal before exploding into a dub feast that, much to my suprise, sounds great and works as an excellent payoff to a song that sounded as if it was going nowhere fast. Dubstep crops up again on Unsustainable, the first of two tracks paired together under the title of ''The 2nd Law'', but while Unsustainable is a ferocious, glorious beast, second part 'Isolated System' is a disappointment, leading to nothing and sitting awkwardly alongside it's far superior counterpart. It's an underwhelming end to the album, and it's not the only mediocre aspect of ''The 2nd Law''; there are average tracks in the form of 'Animals', and while Chris Wolstenhome should be comended for his songwriting efforts this time around, 'Save Me' is another dud on a decidedly weaker second half of the album.
Overall, however, ''The 2nd Law'' is a suprisingly enjoyable affair- at times it sounds as though the band are playing a parody of themselves with their up front, over-the-top cheese rock, yet it also seems they are fully aware of it, and while further establishing Muse's penchant for glamourous opera rock, it also executes it's dubstep style with conviction and purpose. The band's die hard fan base are sure to be pleased, and for the casual listener, ''The 2nd Law'' is a worthy listen that introduces a new side to Muse, and ensures many incredible live performances in the future, which after all, is their greatest strength and the main reason we keep tuning in.