Muse — “The 2nd Law”

Muse - The 2nd LawInvasion of the Freddie Snatchers
By Eric Webb

Attention, Earth arenas: Muse comes in peace. Matthew Bellamy, my favorite space alien and yours, just wants to teach our backward Earth minds how to rock. Also, they want to remind you that Queen is pretty badass.

The 2nd Law is an album by Muse, for Muse lovers. If you’re of the mind that the band, since reaching the “sold-out stadiums” era, has abandoned itself to excess and bombast, then you’re just never going to like Muse again. With their latest, Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard are in full disco ball and laser light mode, saddling up for a symphony of futuristic sounds and big, heart-grabbing power hooks. In short, The 2nd Law is Freddie Mercury on a starship.

Sadly, he’s probably not really on a starship. Maybe.

After the lush overture of “Supremacy,” single “Madness” proves that in space, everyone can hear you wubwubwub. Of course, “Madness” is as much dubstep as Taylor Swift is country at this point, but it’s a victory for drafting the subwoofer into pop servitude. A track with a bare beginning and a sweeping end, it doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio, and not in a Gotye sort of way.

“Panic Station” is a friendly dose of Red Hot Chili Peppers-style raucousness, a terse and funky number that’s about as straightforward as The 2nd Law gets. With a tight beat, tasteful horns and some friendly “whooping” from Bellamy, it’s consciously un-weird.

No doubt at the behest of Queen Bess herself, the Olympic theme “Survival” brings home that classic Muse sound. From fingersnaps to Gothic backing vocals to guitars laden with gravitas, the song is as post-apocalyptic as anything off of Black Holes and Revelations. When you listen to it, you can practically hear Usain Bolt running from a horde of marauding zombies.

“Follow Me” takes more than a few cues from the 30 Seconds to Mars playbook, which is odd because Matthew Bellamy could smoke Jared Leto in any Hunger Games-style deathmatch between leather-jacketed rockstars with a propensity for belting big power notes.

Some street gangs are more frightening than others.

Post-apocalyptic is the new black.

But let’s talk about the Queen influences on The 2nd Law. Comparing Muse to the “Bohemian Rhapsody” legends is not a new trick; it’s an old chestnut. Lo, but hark! What is that, “Explorers”? Your melody veers straight into a riff that sound suspiciously similar to “Don’t Stop Me Now” right in the middle of the song? You rely heavily on piano and choral harmonies? (And that’s even more prevalent on “Survival”?) Your lyrics evoke the same themes of freedom so prevalent in many Queen songs? The 2nd Law has an ever-building anthem called “Save Me”? If you listen, just ever so closely, you can hear the mustache, white tank top and yellow jacket growing over Matthew Bellamy like a second skin. The legitimacy of Muse’s right to the arena throne goes without saying at this point — Brian May may as well hand over the key to the castle. (He probably keeps it in his hair.)

The real treats on The 2nd Law are the final two tracks: “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System.” Sounding like a cocktail of the Kronos Quartet, the theme from “Doctor Who,” your high school physics teacher and Radiohead at their most conceptual, this mini-suite ties the whole package together. An electronic operetta that quotes the Laws of Thermodynamics, it will be the weirdest thing on your jogging playlist.

The 2nd Law once again makes all non-Muse bands look lazy. It’s a high concept, massively realized opus that goes best with a raygun and a thirst for adventure. And, if he were still with us, I’d like to think that Freddie Mercury would be fighting the Martians right alongside Matt, Chris and Dom.

Eric’s Picks
(2) “Madness”
(3) “Panic Station”
(5) “Survival”
(6) “Follow Me”
(8) “Explorers”
(12) “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable”
(13) “The 2nd Law: Isolated System.”


About mattneric

We like music.
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8 Responses to Muse — “The 2nd Law”

  1. rawrrmusic says:

    I like the occasional Muse song, but I’ve never been a dedicated listener. But this album is changing my mind and making me want to go back and listen to their old albums and re-evaluate. Great review as always!!!

  2. As a dedicated Muse fan, this album left me very disappointed. The dubstep didn’t bother me anymore than dubstep by actual dubsteppers bothers me, and the bombast is what makes Muse Muse. I was diappointed by the fact that all these tracks reminded me of previous Muse material, except not all that great. The Muse on this album seems like a parody on the Muse of their last two albums, which closest resemble this one. There’s not really a whole lot different on this album, except they put some dubstep-iness in some songs.

    And “Survival” is a really, really horrible song. Like, just an awful piece of music.

    • mattneric says:

      I mean, yeah, it sounds like a more electronic Muse because it’s a more electronic Muse. It worked for me; I didn’t think it was a watered down version of their music or anything, just a new flavor of the stuff I already liked. But to each his own.

      I’ll admit that “Survival” is a little all over the place, but I think the chaos works in it’s favor. It’s a’ight in my book.

  3. Pingback: Muse: Supremacy | Scottie's Musical Maven

  4. Pingback: Muse: The 2nd Law | Scottie's Musical Maven

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