Wednesday 26 September 2012

Muse - The 2nd Law

The opening track of 'The 2nd Law', Supremacy, neatly sums up Muse's current position in the music industry.  With this being the band's sixth album, they've had a long career and have become one of the greatest bands currently on the globe, with countless accolades for their live gigs.  It also smacks of their growing arrogance, not only in the name itself, but in its grandiose, bombastic style similar to recent Olympic anthem Survival.  With its aggressive guitar riffs and orchestral strings, it is unashamedly a Bond theme in the making.

Before you listen any further beware - this is not a Muse album.  Or, at least, it's not the Muse album you might be expecting.  But before you can shout Panic Station, this shouldn't deter you from listening.

'The 2nd Law' is far from the band's humble beginnings, especially fan favourite 'Origin of Symmetry'.  Bellamy and co. have been inspired by a huge range of influences that have informed the feel of each track, so much so that each track can be re-labelled with equivalent bands or artists.  For instance, Supremacy is essentially a Bond theme; Panic Station is Prince meets Stevie Wonder meets Queen's Another One Bites The Dust; Follow Me is Nero; Animals is Radiohead; Liquid State is Foo Fighters; and The 2nd Law: Unsustainable is Scrillex.

The overriding style, though, is Queen meets dub-step, which could be affectionately monikered "Queen-step".  It's an interesting mix of old and new, though some tracks are more successful than others.  Where Madness combines the two, Follow Me and Unsustainable are pure dub-step, which may be disappointing for fans of the band.  Survival may have been well suited to The Games as an Olympic-sized Queen anthem but feels too overblown in the context of the album.  Animals meanwhile eschews any Queen-step influence for a Radiohead-esque track similar to Micro Cuts ('Origin of Symmetry').  Panic Station is a real highlight: all funk guitars, pounding rhythms and fiery falsetto vocals.  And two tracks, Save Me and Liquid State were written and performed by bassist Chris Wolstenholme, providing a different slant from a familiar member of the band.

So is this newfound concoction of styles a good thing?  Yes and No.

With such a variety of sounds, 'The 2nd Law' doesn't hang together as a single cohesive album; rather it feels more like a compilation of other artists.  And shouldn't Prelude, by it's very nature, be at the start of the album, even if it does introduce Survival?

On the other hand, individually these tracks are well constructed and well produced.  Follow Me and Unsustainable may be utter departures for the band, but it's a powerful statement that the band are willing to push the boundaries and try something different.  It may not be to everyone's tastes, fans of Muse's previous material especially, but rather than bemoaning their change of direction, 'The 2nd Law' should be appreciated in its own right.

If you're looking for the old Muse, listen to 'Origin of Symmetry'.  But if you're willing to take a chance, you may be pleasantly surprised.

This is not the Muse you fell in love with.  Things have changed.  Deal with it.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Panic Station
* Follow Me
* Animals

Listen: 'The 2nd Law' is released on 1st October.

Watch: Muse will be touring Europe over the winter.

You may also like...
* Queen 
* Nero
* Scrillex