Sorry this is up so late everyone; we are currently moving and so my day has been very busy. And by busy, I mean I spent like an hour at McKay’s buying new vinyl today. I got some wicked stuff. Having said that, I seriously had a hard time with this week’s album. I realized on Sunday that I hadn’t actually thought about what I was going to write about, and even though a friend of mine came to the rescue with a couple of recommendations, I didn’t have time to really listen to them. In the end it’s kind of a good thing we’re moving because I had to drive my dogs to Cleveland, TN and I spent that two hours listening to an album I haven’t had a chance to really listen to yet. So without further ado, I give you…
Album: The 2nd Law Artist: Muse
I’ll start this review by saying I have every single Muse album. I went on kind of a Muse kick awhile ago, and while my obsession with them has not been as strong since, my love hasn’t quelled. When The 2nd Law came out, I remember thinking “I have to buy that!” and then I didn’t because that’s just how I roll.
Seriously, if you’re looking for some good, pump-you-up, rebellious music, listen to some Muse. They won’t disappoint. They’ve dabbled in a lot of different stuff over the years: hard rock, techno, full orchestra and now, with The 2nd Law, dubstep. Yeah — it’s like Skrillex and Jack White had a baby. Muse goes big, or they go home.
But what exactly does the title The 2nd Law refer to? My best guess (and this is where I’m totally gonna shoutout to my AP Chem teacher) is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the universe prefers entropy (which is really a fancy word for disorder). That’s kind of the subject matter of The 2nd Law — but with regards to countries, economies, politics, etc… Basically what you would expect from a Muse album. After all, in “The Second Law: Unsustainable” the biggest line is “an economy based on endless growth is unsustainable.”
Now that is a statement. Matt Bellamy and the rest of the guys have always been very clear about their views. (See: Absolution)
If you’re familiar with Muse, or if you’re unfamiliar with Muse, you might (or you might not) know that The 2nd Law is very different from their other stuff. Let’s list a few influences, shall we? According to Wikipedia (the ultimate internet resource), Muse listed influences such as Justice, Skrillex, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and one single was even produced by Nero. The 2nd Law opens with “Supremacy,” a James Bond sounding anthem. It’s got the amazing bass I originally fell in love with Muse over, it’s got the lofty vocals that Matt Bellamy loves, and it’s got the action movie sound all while proclaiming warnings about loss of freedom. It’s a great start that carries through the album. “Panic Station” is another great song on the album — it’s full of funk and features musicians that played alongside Stevie Wonder himself. And, fun fact: “Survival” was used as the official song of the London Olympic Games.
But I didn’t want to write this post on the stuff that already sounds like Muse. So, with that out in the air, let’s talk about the band’s dubstep experimentation. Now, it’s no big secret that frontman Matt Bellamy likes to evolve his music. But — and I’m going to be completely honest here — the dubstep/house thing kind of threw me. The first time I listened to it, I was very unsure as to whether or not I liked it. There are hints of this interesting genre mix throughout the album, but it all culminates into “The Second Law: Unsustainable.”
I’m no dubstep aficionado, so I won’t offer my opinion on its quality simply because I don’t know. I will say that i wasn’t expecting it on my first listen through the album and quite frankly I was terrified. It sounds like a soundtrack to some Peter Jackson sci-fi in the beginning and then there is this bass drop and a jam that (based on the Coachella live cast on YouTube) looks like a lot of fun to play. If the band was trying to make a statement, they succeeded.
This dabble in dubstep isn’t the only unique thing about The 2nd Law, though. Two of the album’s songs were written and sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme regarding struggles with alcoholism. One of these, “Save Me” is my favorite song on the album. From the opening lines “Save me from my superstitions/Now I’m free, from this old condition” to the final, pleading “Don’t let go,” the song brings a nice emotional break from all the accusatory and riot-like forcefulness the band typically brings to an album. And, before I close, I’d like to mention the soundtrack element The 2nd Law possesses. Some of the tracks, such as “The Second Law: Isolated System” were included in the soundtrack for World War Z. It doesn’t just sound like music by Muse was thrown into a movie, but rather like the album was composed with the specific purpose of being included in a movie. For the record, Matt Bellamy did admit to the influence that the novel WWZ had on the album. Whatever the original intention, the intensity is something that I have consistently admired about Muse’s music.
In summation, I’m really killing the vocabulary today. Just kidding. To wrap it up, I’ll say that the album generally received positive reviews (at least from what I’ve read). I’m still unsure about my feelings for the album. It is without a doubt different, but I also feel like it’s slightly more simplified than some of their previous work. Regardless, I’m excited to see where they’ll go next with their newfound sound.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions or recommendations? Leave them in the comments! Until next week, keep listening.
Honorable Mentions: Madness, Panic Station, Prelude/Survival, Save Me, Liquid State
P.S. I wrote this while eating dinner at Carrabba’s, so if it sucks that’s why. Sorry.