By Space Cowboy
I’d like to start off by saying that I’m a long-suffering MUSE fan (note how I capitalise their entire name) and have been dying to get this album. After the numerous shocking allegations and rumours regarding the direction the album had taken, I was intrigued to see whether they’d gone a (dub)step further than they had with Resistance, because as an album (bar one or two tracks) I’d really enjoyed it. I don’t shy away from bands trying something new, and MUSE can do almost no wrong by me, so without further ado, my track-by-track review of MUSE – The 2nd Law.
1 – Supremacy: The album kicks off in a fairly grand operatic-space-metal sort of way, with Bellamy’s patent guitar sound blasting a mean riff that reminds me of some of the last two albums’ tracks. Accompanying the heavily compressed riffage is the now ubiquitous orchestral sauce that Bellamy delights our aural pallets with in good measure (what a terribly hashed metaphor, whip and throw fruit at me). I don’t really give a flying, flaming shit what anyone else says, I love the fusion of classical and rock music. It must have been that early training in classical piano while simultaneously teaching myself Metallica on a classical guitar that did it. In a few ways, this track also reminds me of the good old days of MUSE, but there are certainly allusions to their later offerings, with a hint of 80’s-glam-ballad-solo breaking up the track nicely. The outro really pleased me, with a prog-feel more akin to The Mars Volta than the usual MUSE I know and love. Oh, and let’s not forget that swanky final chord.
2 – Madness: Among the aforementioned allegations was that MUSE had gone mad and made a dubstep album. Madness represents our first taste of muse-step, with occasional smatterings of Queen-like choral harmonies that seem to be becoming another staple for the guys. That said, the schmaltzy, weak lyrics, and almost Mika-esque “hoo-hoo-hoooo” somewhere in the middle didn’t amuse me as much as hurt me. Another 80’s inspired guitar solo, cuts the song in two, while the song plays out with a slightly more encouraging Muse-ballad outro that isn’t as awful as the rest, but still not enough to make up for a track that may have been best left in the studio, never to see the light of a CD-player.
3 – Panic Station: This is possibly my favourite track on the entire album. Absurd notion, I realise, but goddamn, it kicks harder than a prized racehorse. Hey! Mule and MUSE are only one letter away from each other! Anyway, the stonking base intro and funk guitar fills get the song off to a rocking start, while hilarious vocal theatrics maintain the songs quite electric energy. Overall, the track has a very Franz Ferdinand sound and feel about it, and the brass fanfare in the chorus gives it a fucking funky, danceable vibe. And dance I do, whenever I hear this track, like my feet are being shot at by my cowboy captors. If this song doesn’t get you in the mood for a party, you should go and masturbate with your tears now.
4 – Prelude: As the title suggests, this track essentially provides an extended intro to the headliner of the show, but incredibly does not sound or feel like a filler track. It is gorgeous, emotive, sentimental orchestral love-making for the ears, and so completely beautiful I want to shout and spit Cupid’s arrows when I hear it. Did I mention that I love classical music?
5 – Survival: It really doesn’t get more bombastic than this. As the proposed official song of the 2012 Olympics, MUSE gives us something to enjoy and laugh about. The cheeky piano intro is too fucking groovy for me, I don’t deserve it, and I wish they’d do more of this kind of thing. It’s very similar to I Belong to You from Resistance, which happens to be my favourite track from said former album. With liberal smatterings of the choir-infused epic-space-rock that I love, the sexy and completely OTT solo, hilariously cheesy, awful lyrics, and a powerful vocal performance, we get a taste of both old and new in this track. The song as a whole though, and particularly the outro, reminds me of Eurasia, equal in bombastic flair and curious experimentation. Bellamy’s insanity makes me a happy listener, and the rush of blood to my heart has been diverted to feed a heavy, swollen glans.
6 – Follow Me: Apparently, the song kicks off with the sound of Matt’s babies heartbeat, which is sweet, I suppose, but that kind of sentiment rarely drives the best artistic choices, and with that in mind, I’d rather not comment on how the song plays out – it actually hurts a little to hear just how “made-for-radio” it is.
7 – Animals: Here’s a nice little gem. It’s composition and production smack of Radiohead to me, but most definitely in a good way. This little nuance is balanced against some strong influences from their own first three studio albums, particularly the intro of New Born’s bells and synths, and the very Screenager vocal runs and scales in the chorus. The track is an homage to the MUSE of old, and at the same time is quite experimental and fresh. It explodes in an aggressive outro to concrete it as one of the best tracks on the album.
8 – Explorers: Apart from a melody that leaves you expecting Don’t Stop Me Now from the King (or should that be Queen) of OTT rock, Freddy Mercury, to come piercing through your speakers/headphones, it’s a quintessential MUSE dream-ballad that’s easily recognisable in their repertoire.
9 – Big Freeze: It’s a terrible song. It may as well be straight off a post-1990 U2 album, the influence is so obvious and unpleasant. Worse still is that it steals vocal melodies from their very own Map of the Problematique‘s chorus. U2 are shit. MUSE should not be stooping to their level. They don’t need to. I almost cut my dick off after listening to this one.
10 – Save Me: Track 10 welcomes Chris Wolstenholme’s first foray into composition and lead vocals, and more so, leaves me wishing he had stuck to the bass – it’s horrible, limp song-writing, and sounds like it might come from a PG-rated, modern Disney remake of The Never-Ending Story (don’t ask me how I got there). It just never goes anywhere, never progresses, and drifts along as un-memorably as it beings and ends. And that makes two disappointing tracks in a row, a first for me in MUSE album history.
11 – Liquid State: Chris’ second offering on The 2nd Law is much ballsier than his first, and a brief redemption for Chris; it at least sounds like the good ol’ guitar and bass sex from Origin, but the strong music is let down by distinctly Foo Fighters vocal stylings and lyrics – not a good thing at all. The groovy riffs are however groovy enough to cause a shudder in my love-muscle.
12 – 2nd Law: Unsustainable: This is the most blatantly dub-step of all the tracks on the album, by which many fans were appalled and hurt, but for me it serves as one of the albums strongest tracks. What’s nice to know is that all blips, beeps and screeches were performed and recorded with their actual instruments. I love it when hip-hop groups use real instruments, so this outright blew me away.
13 – 2nd Law: Isolated System: The final song on the album is a dreamy concept track to provide us the happy ending we have surely earned by listening through the entire album. Following with samples from Unsustainable, and with hints of electro dance music in the synths, we quickly find that it’s a whore with rough hands, and provides a lacklustre finish to our shiny red helmet. It’s not terrible, but it is disappointing closing track for the album. Had I been in the studio with MUSE deciding the order of the tracks, I’d have placed this one before Unsustainable, so that the former could end us off with a bang.
The album as a whole: Bellamy is insane, no doubt about it. It’s so hard to discern whether he’s laughing all the way to the bank with certain tracks, or whether he’s headed to his self-sustainable secret bunker in wait for the end of the world, but fortunately the overly radio-friendly tracks are complimented by some interesting and rocking ones. The trouble is that as an album, it’s too all over the place, and doesn’t go far enough in any one direction to feel like, well, an album. It’s not terrible – I doubt MUSE could ever make an entirely shit album – but there is about as much to dislike about it as there is to love. That said, dislike is a much weaker word that love, so it does manage to keep it’s head above water. I’m calling this one a very long experimental EP. Here’s hoping the next one gets steered back on course.
I give MUSE’s 2nd Law a score of 70% turgidity.
As this fiercely obvious anime reference would imply, Space Cowboy is a fiercely enthusiastic geek, and as such, brings something fresh to geek-journalism. That is to say, freshly squeezed wads of man-berry juice, frantically issued all over anything tech, gaming, and/or Japan related. He does hope you enjoy said bukkake-esque levels of enthusiasm.