Album Reviews

MUSE – The 2nd Law (REVIEW) 2012

Contributing to a very highly-anticipated string of releases this Fall is The 2nd Law; the 6th studio album by Muse. To be released on October 2nd, The 2nd Law is a concept album, serving as the follow up to 2009’s The Resistance.

I had read a number of accounts stating that Muse were going to experiment with this release. I suppose they did, although I wouldn’t call it “experimenting” more so than “shifting styles”. Be warned, you’re going to get a heavy dose of U2 flashbacks with this one.

I won’t go track by track. You’ll find that out soon enough. But I will reference a few:

The record kicks off with “Supremacy”… ambient, marching snare, until it breaks out into a heavy guitar groove that you can’t help but bob your head to. Matt Bellamy squeals in his upper vocal range in a way that I haven’t heard much since Origin of Symmetry in 2001.

“Supremacy” sets a good tone for the album by demonstrating that there aren’t really any tracks here that play straight through. Meaning, each song will have it’s highs and lows, so be prepared to break your groove cycle often.

The 2nd Law is very, very 80’s influenced. Or at least that’s what I’m hearing. The end section “Follow Me” sounds like a more intense version of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name”. “The Big Freeze” has that jangly U2-inspired clean guitar, and “Panic Station” sounds as if Muse had collaborated with INXS and David Bowie.

But it’s good.

The energy is there, and the composition is creative. However if you’re looking for rockin’ tracks similar to “Stockholm Syndrome”, “Assassin”, or “Unnatural Selection”, you won’t be finding them here.

But my main complaint about this record is that of the 13 tracks, the last 4 might throw many Muse fans off. Here’s why:

1. Once again, we have 2 tracks that are basically instrumentals. I like instrumentals, but It really seems like they copped out and threw these on the end of the track list to make the record longer. I feel like these should be b-sides, or cut down into slices to be interludes. Not the last 2 tracks on the album. “The 2nd Law – Unsustainable” is cool once you get past the long ass spoken news intro (the same clip we saw in that YouTube teaser a couple months ago).

2. Tracks 10 and 11 (“Save Me” and “Liquid State”)… who’s singing these? Is it Chris (Wolstenholme)? It’s certainly not Matt. Why, after 6 albums, would you all of a sudden feature someone else on lead vocals for two tracks? Especially on one of the most highly anticipated records of 2012. It’s not bad at all, but it’s not nearly as captivating as Bellamy, and it certainly threw me off more than it made me intrigued.

…oh, and they included the often-griped-about track “Survival”. You know, the Olympics one that seemingly no one liked.

Bottom line: I’m really half-enjoying this record. It’s nothing terribly new, but the crisp 80’s-influenced sound is certainly a fun change and keeps things interesting. There are some great guitar riffs, great rhythm choices, and Matt Bellamy’s vocals are of course spot on. So why am I only half-enjoying it?

…if you take the two instrumentals, plus the two tracks that don’t feature Matt Bellamy on vocals, plus the Olympics theme that wasn’t very well received… you’re left with only half of a record to really grasp onto. That is a big hit to what otherwise could have been a really strong album. Don’t discount it by any means, but it’s not as good as it could have been.

All that said, “Supremacy” and “Panic Station” are becoming two of my favorite Muse tracks ever.

Oh, and no, it’s not all dubstep-y like everyone was fearing.

Rating: 8/10