Originally published in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on November 18, 2012
Muse – The 2nd Law
There’s been a clear division between fans ever since Brit rockers Muse released their fifth studio album The Resistance in 2009. Their shift towards synth-oriented melodies, and grand orchestral movements left fans of previously-experimental prog rock style wonder what had happened. Of course, it wasn’t all that sudden, but with their sixth album The 2nd Law, which refers to thermodynamics, Muse have latched themselves on to the new wave, whether the ship’s passengers like it or not.
‘Madness’ has not one hint of the band’s original influences, surely. Yet, they dared to push the envelope and release it as their lead single, receiving mixed reviews. There are Matt Bellamy’s signature soul and R&B vocals, if that’s any consolation.
They’re not just looking into future sounds, though. ‘Panic Station’ is from another era, one in which the band never existed. While it’s an interesting experiment, you would rather listen to Queen, because they did it best.
That being said, The Second Law is one big, epic party taking place in a massive arena. And they want you to come regardless of whether you are or used to be a fan of their music. ‘Survival’ leans on the heavier side, but packs in the right amount of arena rock elements, while ‘Follow Me’ makes you wonder if you’re listening to a remix. Fans of prog rock Muse will be shaking their head at this turn towards dubstep.
‘Animals’ comes a bit too close to a familiar Radiohead song, with its clean guitars and swift drumming. Thankfully, the band moves away from, letting the song become an energetic psychedelic mess by the end of it. By a long stretch, this is still the most familiar Muse get with their pre-2009 fans.
The only reason this album can be applauded on an aesthetic level is due to the remarkable versatility in the band’s songwriting and diversity in sound. They stayed true to their work when they (jokingly) said The 2nd Law would be a “Christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia”.
But that’s also the main issue with the album. It splatters a serious overdose of genres on listeners. And since the songs aren’t very long (‘Explorers’ clocks in at 5:46 minutes), it packs in too much too quickly.