REVIEW: MUSE – THE 2ND LAW


As a lifelong fan of Muse (Muse, as in Showbiz, Origin of Symmetry and Absolution, Muse), I’m potentially the wrong person to review the English trio’s 6th studio release, The 2nd Law. This in itself is a sad fact, that the announcement of a new Muse album this autumn filled me with dread rather than hope. But here it goes; my progressing track-by-track thoughts on my listen through of the album that has broken all Has it Leaked’s records.

The album opens with Supremacy, an energetic curtain-jerker. Call me a purist, but a rock song that includes the words ‘emancipation’ and ‘policies’ in the lyrics is already toeing the line. What starts here from the very opening track though is a ‘throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks’ mentality that is rife from here on out. Classical strings accompanying the guitars at the start are abolished in favour of trumpets with little to no context or introduction further on in the track.

However, aside from this and the hackneyed military drumbeats, there is the core of a good song here. Matt’s high-pitched vocals are back, there’s some rocking drop tuned guitars, an above par solo: Wonderful, let’s do it!

 

If you had told me before that Muse were writing a song where they ripped off 80s and 90s funk as well as Michael Jackson, while Matt Bellamy ‘Oooh!’’d and Ow!’d about the place, I’d have assumed and prayed you were joking…

 

Madness, the lead single of the album, is a slow song totally devoid the artistic value, instrumental merit, relatable themes and striking lyricism of other Muse ‘slow singles’. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but to me, being mindful of the quality a band is capable of is necessary when looking at new releases. The comparison to Queen is less of an elephant, rather a blue whale wearing high visibility clothing in the room.

The less said about Panic Station, the better. If you had told me before that Muse were writing a song where they ripped off 80s and 90s funk as well as Michael Jackson, while Matt Bellamy ‘Oooh!’’d and Ow!’d about the place, I’d have assumed and prayed you were joking… *Retrospectively adding the U2 B-Side (Yeah, fecking U2, and that’s coming from an Irishman) Big Freeze into songs I refuse to talk at length about.)

On to Survival. OK, we’re actually getting somewhere here. There’s still some inane paint by numbers lyrics, (‘I’m gonna win, Yes I’m gonna win’ anybody?) but some actual progressive rock sneaks in at the end with what proves to be Muse’s go-to and only trick, drop tuned guitars.

The only thing I have written down here for both Follow Me and Explorers is ‘Guiding Light clone’… which is excessively disturbing considering Guiding Light in itself was an Invincible clone. On top of this, Explorers is just inexplicably long…! Almost 6 minutes of drab, castrated and uninspiring material.

Now, there are some good points to the albums, don’t get me wrong. Animals at least builds up some anticipation, a hot instrumental bridge and some actual hard-hitting lyrics as opposed to the soft-core faux-rebellion inciting ‘We are the people’ epitaphs. Matt growls ‘Kill yourself, Come on and do us all a favour’ to the financial and political powers they stand against.

To this point, one could assume that Chris and Dom had been evicted from the band, as bass and drum-lines have been consistently forgettable, taking a backseat to Matt’s exploits. On Save Me, and Liquid State conversely, Chris takes centre stage on vocals to strange results. The songs betray an element of talent unknown of Chris to the masses. His vocals are dreamy, cerebral and heartfelt. Save Me strikes me as the one song I will be returning to listen to, despite it not really going anywhere meaningful. The whole track sounds like a brief refrain, ready to explode, but never actually getting there. Liquid State is guilty of the same sin, with far less emotion invested in it, sounding like a drab mid-album track of Pendulum’s (unflattering comparison #36).

 

Unsustainable, Muse’s foray into brostep. One has to laugh about all the fuss this comparatively short song caused in the build-up to this album’s release.

 

And now the fun starts; Unsustainable, Muse’s foray into brostep. One has to laugh about all the fuss this comparatively short song caused in the build-up to this album’s release. I actually speculate that there was more of this high frequency beat, peeling notes style to be included in the album, but later retracted after initial reactions. This is sad, as it’s one of the few times that Muse actually step outside of a self-imposed box consisting of watered down electro-rock. I may be trying too hard to find the sublime amongst the ridiculous, but this direction is the only thing that got me slightly interested. Dubstep on guitars is now an achievable goal, and if done right, could be the new chapter of progressive rock. It’s just a shame that Muse appeared to give up on it so fast.

And we end with Isolated System, the most pointless song of the album, and bafflingly, the closer.

Overall, this album contains few moments of artistic or musical merit. Muse appear to have forgone well thought out album concepts and instead have strewn together many half-considered ideas, stitched together by laughably conspicuous filler songs, fuelled by the behemoth that is Matt Bellamy’s ego. Experimentation was always key to Muse’s sound, but this appears to just be a ‘leap before you look’ mess, relying on hype and media coverage to sell.

Verdict: 3/10

 

Pre-order the album at Muse official site and discuss the album at our forum.

59 comments
Leave a reply » 1 2

 
  • ChewTheDirt
    October 2, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    How can you possibly call yourself a Muse fan and have the nerve to sit there and rip apart such a flawless album. Do you have ears? The production alone is enough to make you want to come back for more!

    Here is a review that actually sums up the album in a positive way : http://www.chewthedirt.com/album-week-muse-2nd-law/

    If your going to review something, take the time to really pick apart each song, rather then throwing up some biased remarks. If your a Muse fan, you will listen again. This album is a masterpiece. Not too heavy and no radio hits – they tried something new and absolutely succeeded.

    Reply

    • @mattdoyle Level 5
      October 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      I really don’t understand your point…? If I’m a fan of Muse, why is it completely unheard of for me to dislike something that sounds completely far removed and unlike that band? Surely that only follows common sense?

      Music isn’t about picking a side and following that band relentlessly and feverishly eating up and loving everything they release…

      They way you go on, it sounds like if Matt Bellamy farted into a mic and made it a B-side you’d be on it.

      Reply

  • October 2, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    So I haven’t ever listened to Muse and nothing will change that trend. I can say that hating on someone’s opinion is pointless. Rather than attack his work, man (or lady) up and write your own.

    Also from some of the reaction the songs have concepts that have been gleamed from interviews with the band members; if you listen to a song without the preconception and don’t get the concept then that is a failure of the band to communicate with the listener. This is not f###ing Ulysses, it shouldn’t require a reading companion.

    To the point, if the music should have accompanying visuals then a band should have enough talent to achieve such a feat.

    Finally, good job Matt for expressing your opinion and preempting your review with the context that this review is in a sense a work in progress which I respect and not enough reviewers acknowledge.

    Reply

  • Morgan
    October 3, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Spot on review. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. I had to go back and listen to Origin of Symmetry and Absolution in order to survive this cd.

    Reply

    • @nialzzz Level 0
      October 4, 2012 at 10:29 am

      At what point did you move back to the earlier albums? During the listening of “The 2nd Law” or after? The former would indicate you interrupted the flow of the album, thus automatically ruining any “flow”. The latter, well, this would render your comment fairly redundant; listening to an earlier album after this would confirm that you had already got through it.

      In conclusion, your comment is completely nonsensical.

      Reply

  • @nialzzz Level 0
    October 4, 2012 at 10:23 am

    This review is massively sub par. Why waste time formulating such a misguided and misleading column?

    Reply

    • October 4, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Yeah because OPINIONS are misleading. It is an opinion and if you can’t come to grips with someone’s OPINION not agreeing with yours then why bother with a response. Write your own and post it in the forum.

      ^see what I did there with opinion, i capitalized it so as to reinforce both its denotations and connotations. An opinion can not be misleading based purely on its meaning.

      Reply

      • @nialzzz Level 0
        October 8, 2012 at 12:04 am

        When the opinion is put forward, that is completely acceptable. To put forward an opinion and attempt to add substance to the aforementioned “opinion” with fairly lacklustre attempt, then it is plausible to refute.

        It is not the content I object to, but the ability of the writer. This being something I don’t have to emphasise with capital letters. Also, the capitalisation of the word opinion confirms your inability to use a keyboard correctly. The mere context alone is enough to interpret the ideal.

        In summation, the review is misleading as it is not only badly written, but an inaccurate depiction of the material based on the release date of the review -with relation to the time of leak.

        Feelgoodlost; does that alleviate any quarrel you have with my previous comment? I surely hope so…

        Reply

  • @tsswnhs Level 3
    October 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Sadly, I agree. I really like Animals, though. Ah well, I can always put on some Origin or Absolution when I want to listen to the good ole Muse.

    Reply

  • Danny
    October 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    I enjoy how people say this is a well written review despite the reviewer refusing to critique Big Freeze and only refers to Explorers and Follow Me as the ‘Guiding Light’ clone.

    A terribly written review by, probably, a Muse fan who isn’t happy they didn’t try to re-create Origin of Symmetry.

    Reply

  • L21
    October 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Awful review. It just sounds like another butt-hurt Muse fan who couldn’t enjoy anything other than Origin/Absolution. I don’t like it either, actually. Am I going to cry about it by defacing the band/album without some substantial reasoning? No.

    I can still appreciate what they tried to do, but it isn’t my cup of tea.

    Everyone has an opinion, but stupid people shouldn’t be able to voice theirs, especially while acting like they actually know a thing or two about music.

    Oh, and FYI, Muse have always ‘ripped off’ people since Showbiz. Matt Bellamy – “You can either expand upon something already done, or create something new” – they did both this album, and ALL their albums.

    Please, ask me what comparisons I can make up (song-by-song) for each of their first three albums. It’s no different than this, lazy writing.

    Reply

  • Long term Muse fan
    January 10, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Non-newb Muse fans have followed Muse mainly for their propensity for powerful alternative rock.

    This and album and the previous are such a deviation from what made Muse great it saddens me.

    The albums reflect Matt’s attitude towards life. Up until and including Black Holes and Revelations, Matt was anxious, more conspiratorial and discontent. As soon as he found solace romantically and familiarly, the albums changed. He softened, the music became subjective, selfish and weaker overall.

    I’m very disappointing by what Muse have become. I understand that the lyrics are still a geopolitical commentary and endeavor to propagate love rather the negativity but Bellamy has forgotten that the negativity in the band’s prior work was the fundamental inertia requisite for catalyzing the very revolution of consciosness that they once were effective at catlyzing.

    Muse have sold out commercially and spiritually.

    If what I’m conveying sound alien to anyone, you need to apreciate that Matt is a conspiracy theorist at heart. His lyrics explicitly reflects this. Though he’s a geoist, he fears centralize globalism and the hidden oligarchical hand orchestrates it.

    Don’t believe me? Listen to Explorers. He’s conceded and sold out. Even the fact that he pandered to something as occult as the Olympics corroborates this.

    This album may indeed be a pleasant experience for new Muse fans but truth be told, the album is more of a series of shadows of the true essence of Muse. It’s a sad case of “fixing” something that wasn’t broken.

    Each of the album’s songs are so anti-climatic that I’m left pondering when the aggressive omnipotent rock is about to kick in and even when it does, it’s painfully understated and brief.

    Make it right Muse. Return to what made you known in the first place. You were already innovating. To continue innovating beyond the point of your artistic peak is naturally, tantamount to artistic deterioration.

    Reply

  • Long term Muse fan
    January 10, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    I didn’t proof my comment. Apologies for the ridiculous and replete errors.

    Reply

  • Long term Muse fan
    January 10, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Two more things to add:

    1) The Muse fans attacking the reviewer are resorting to ad hominem attacks. This completely invalidates your arguments. Attack the message rather than the messenger.
    2) Please implement a “subscribe to comments” feature. It’s a standard expectation especially for any website with a WordPress engine.

    Reply

  • @dlr1124 Level 2
    April 11, 2013 at 6:31 am

    I’ve loved literally everything from Muse, Shobiz to 2nd Law.

    Reply

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