Muse
The 2nd Law


3.0
good

Review

by Andrew Gold CONTRIBUTOR (74 Reviews)
May 21st, 2013 | 199 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Muse's scatterbrained approach to songwriting on The 2nd Law is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.

It’s nice to find a band that stays true to their roots even after becoming a famous household name – Muse is definitely not one of those bands. Since their debut, they’ve been slowly drifting from a proggy Radiohead clone to the grandiose symphonic pop act known as the Matt Bellamy show. The Resistance was soaked in Bellamy’s flourishing ego – the operatic Queen-like harmonies, the banal pop tendencies, the three part self-proclaimed rock symphony – it was all pointing to a band letting the fame get to their heads. Well, Bellamy’s specifically. Thankfully, though, he’s a talented mother f’er, making even his weakest outing The 2nd Law not a complete disaster, rather a discombobulated mess of bombastic semi-realized ideas resulting in the band’s most inconsistent yet infectiously fun album to date.

Thankfully, Muse haven’t completely lost their unique touch. ‘Supremacy’ kicks things off with a bang – it’s heavy, it’s dramatic, at times beautiful, and would sound oddly perfect as a Bond theme song. ‘Animals’ is the most genuine song Muse have done in years and wouldn’t sound too out of place on BH&R. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme is also featured on vocals for two of the tracks; a nice and much-needed change of pace from Bellamy’s pompous vocal performance (seriously Matt, stick with the soft falsettos please). Chris’ airy, soothing timbre gives life to the post-rocky ‘Save Me’, and even on the heavier ‘Liquid State’ his voice gives depth to the otherwise tepid metallic riffs.

There are some instances where the bizarre experimentation works in their favor. ‘Panic Station’ was absolutely grating when I first heard it – a 70’s sounding Thriller rip-off sprinkled with a botched Stevie Wonder riff and emphatic brass arrangements was disastrous to my ears. But once you accept the fact that this isn’t a "Muse" song by any means, you can’t help but get lost in the funk and appreciate it for being a damn fun listen. The controversial ‘Follow Me’ has a few things going for it as well – the ominous synths provide a nice atmosphere to Bellamy’s admittedly spectacular vocal performance, and surprisingly Nero didn’t completely gut it for all it’s worth (although the “wubs” are by far the worst part of the song). Naturally there are a few lukewarm moments here and there; moments that are by no means bad but don’t quite come together like they should. The mellow ‘Explorers’ reuses the melody from ‘Invincible’ in a very different and equally satisfying setting, yet as nice as the progressions are and as well as the strings compliment the lingering morose atmosphere, it still feels lazy and uninspired by their standards. ‘Big Freeze’, a blatant U2 rip-off, has Bellamy’s most emotionally fueled, honest performance in its uplifting chorus, but is plagued by stale verses and overall lack of originality.

Unfortunately, the slips on The 2nd Law are impossible to ignore. When ‘The 2nd Law: Unsustainable’ was first released as a teaser, fans were rightfully disgusted and expected the album to be much worse than it actually is. Thankfully, it’s the only Skrillex influenced track on the album (yes, Muse, the brilliant musicians who wrote the progressive opus Absolution, took influence from Skrillex, the two-bit dubstep producer who birthed the anti-opus Make It Bun Dem After Hours. I don’t know what this world is coming to either). ‘Survival’ did its job well as the official 2012 Olympics song – it’s big, it’s over the top, it has motivational lyrics that would pump up listeners to win, as Bellamy proclaims, but as an album track it sounds cheesy, forced, and horribly out of place. As for ‘Madness’, it suffers from a case of too much build-up and not enough to show for it. The last minute or so is exactly what you’d expect from Muse – entrancing harmonies, lush instrumentals and Bellamy soaring above it all. However, the first few minutes are so mind-numbingly boring that you begin to wonder if the end reward is even worth the wait.

Looking back, Muse had definitely hit a turning point in their career with The Resistance. They knew they weren’t the same band that made the critically acclaimed Origin of Symmetry, and on The 2nd Law is where they fully embrace it. They didn’t even try to make a cohesive record. Instead, they took any far-fetched influence and crackpot idea that came through Bellamy’s head and tied them all together for their sixth full-length, and oddly enough this scatterbrained approach to songwriting is both The 2nd Law’s greatest strength and greatest weakness.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


21817 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

i know this totally needed another review

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Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


21817 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

grazie

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
May 21st 2013


31628 Comments


Admittedly your good versus bad approach isn't a giant aspect of the review, but I do think your writing would benefit from not having framed the two so dynamically. Good writing though

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


21817 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

good call, ill edit it later. and thanks

Artuma
May 21st 2013


16025 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

100% agreed. good job with the review

Digging: Taake - Stridens hus

Necrotica
May 21st 2013


10135 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

Album is anal juice

EvoHavok
May 21st 2013


1500 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Review reflected my opinion almost perfectly. Solid writing.

Digging: DIR EN GREY - Arche

DrGonzo1937
May 21st 2013


6848 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Album is anal juice[2]

Digging: Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor

Hoppoman
May 21st 2013


656 Comments


Space Broccoli!

SamiK951
May 21st 2013


43 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Couldn't agree any more with the review plus it's written well - good job!

Acanthus
May 21st 2013


9545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Really enjoyed this far more than its predecessor, I think far too much emphasis is continually put on Bellamy's influence (they're a band, it's not like he's taking them places without their consent/knowledge).

The amount of time reviewers place on the wobbles really in misleading, as they are hardly a focus of the album and seem to be brought up to polarize readers more often than not.

Good review all the same, though I don't agree with some of it.

Digging: MO - No Mythologies To Follow

Gyromania
May 21st 2013


16089 Comments


very good writing here, andrew. have a pos

as for the album, well, i haven't heard it yet and i really have no inclination to. once upon a time i defended this band to no end, but the resistance was so unremarkable and banal that i just completely lost interest. even in going back to absolution and black holes, i don't find much to enjoy. that's either because i've overplayed it to death or i'm so put off by the direction they've taken that it's tainted my overall perspective of them. the latter sounds dumb and elitist but it's happened before.

Tyrael
May 21st 2013


20972 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Looking back to it, this isn't quite as bad as I initially thought it was

your rating is probably accurate

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
May 21st 2013


21817 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

many thanks guys

and absolution will always be a classic in my eyes. it was the first album i ever heard and was pretty much the basis for my entire music taste so no matter how bad this band gets ill always give their albums a chance, hoping one day they'll make a song as good as butterflies and hurricanes again. even though the chances of that are about .000001%

Acanthus
May 21st 2013


9545 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Never got around to Absolution, giving it a listen now (heard some of the tracks from it off HARRP).

fromtheinside
May 21st 2013


19166 Comments


lol, this band

pos'd, good write up

Digging: Techno Animal - The Brotherhood of the Bomb

YourDarkAffected
Contributing Reviewer
September 18th 2013


1687 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Saw them last night for the first time. Even though I'm not a fan of this or the Resistance, they put on an absolutely incredible performance.

DrGonzo1937
September 18th 2013


6848 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

They're good live, like. Shame they can't write a good album anymore.

TonalAnomaly
September 22nd 2013


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Criminally underrated.

DrGonzo1937
September 23rd 2013


6848 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Criminal to have been released.



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