Apocalypse please! Muse has managed to incorporate two of our favorite guilty pleasures, dubstep and Queen, and hacked them both to death with snappy bass lines. We’re nostalgic for a simpler time, when Matt Bellamy’s incredible symphonic rock ballads were all that was in their repertoire, but lately they’ve seemed to be straying from the good thing they’ve had going since their breakthrough album Absolution. There’s a lot going on in Muse’s fifth album, The 2nd Law, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it the first time you listen.
Starting with a 007-inspired song, which in their opinion could’ve been the title song for Skyfall if not for that pesky Adele, “Supremacy” is quite frankly the song that pleases a Muse fan the most. It’s got the soul-crushing string arrangements, thrashing guitar and all of that prog-rock goodness. Coldplay’s frontman Chris Martin believes the second track on the album, “Madness,” is the best Muse song ever recorded, but we don’t know what he’s smoking because to us it sounds like Achtung Baby remixed with some Skrillex B-sides found on the cutting room floor.
“Panic Station” has a hilarious ’80s bass line that would be well suited to a sitcom (at this point we began to accept the fact that this album is more of a Queen homage than what we were expecting) and is followed by the least played but most endorsed London 2012 Olympics song, “Survival,” whose lyrics should strip Bellamy of all the Best Lyricist titles he’s garnered over the years. For a man whose head is usually full of technology, atheism, apocalyptic scenarios and Orwellian future, there’s just something that doesn’t sit right with the lyrics:
Race, it’s a race
But I’m gonna win
Yes I’m gonna win
And I will light the fuse
I’ll never lose
All pessimism aside, the end of the album had some pretty interesting pieces. The songs “Save Me” and “Liquid State” are the first songs sung by someone in the band other than Bellamy. Both of the tracks, penned and performed by bassist Chris Wolstenholme, tell the story of his alcoholism and subsequent sobriety. His meekly sweet voice tackles the important issue with a non-judgmental grace that was a refreshing break from the Queen stroking. The song “The 2ndlaw: Unsustainable” is likely the most remarkable track created for the album, as it was all written electronically and recorded with anything but a synth and a mixer: every sound you hear is not sampled or created, it’s all performed by the band’s instruments.
A mega band is changing, and for better or for worse we’re going to keep tagging along for the ride. It’s not that we don’t like when musicians branch out and explore other genres, it’s just that we really miss what they brought in their early albums. They’re just not there yet with this new sound, but they’ll get there.
Best Tracks: "Supremacy," "Save Me," "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable"
Skip These: "Survival," "Explorers"