Muse – The 2nd Law (2012)

Well a lot of hype has surrounded the release of this album. Not least helped along by the dubstep comments from the band during recording sessions.

Then there was the barkingly mad Olympic song, ’Survival’ which seemed to surprise everybody. To top it all off they then released ’Madness’, a single which is one of the best songs of the past five years. So what does The 2nd Law actually sound like?

‘Supremacy’ kicks things off and its as if we should never have worried. All guns blazing Muse are back and the style, subject matter and everything else is just perfectly aligned to what you would expect. Could easily have been the theme to upcoming Bond film “Skyfall”, well if it wasn’t for Adele…

Up next is ‘Madness’, and as I’ve said it is in my view the best song released in recent years. It is so understated, slowly creeping up to suddenly become a gorgeous chorus and guitar solo which has echoes of Queen without ever aping or being cliché. Inevitable derogatory comparisons will no doubt ensue anyway.

Panic Station is ridiculously funky and just stomps along brashly and brimming with confidence. A ‘typical Muse’ (is there such a thing?) musical interlude soon ensues with wacky guitar and “Oooo”-vocals. By the end you will probably want to hear it again!

What we are noticing here on The 2nd Law is that this is a big album, with huge songs which don’t always need the bombastic huge delivery that Muse have often provided.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that ‘Prelude’ is in fact the ‘warm up’ music used in the IOC official video for ‘Survival’.You know, the bit where the clock ticks backwards and looks at moments of Olympic history and glory… ‘Survival’ is of course, up next. It’s as pompous, mad, and downright brilliant as it always has been. Big choirs, big chorus, big Matt vocals, big drums and big musical pieces. I’ve come to really love this brilliant song. Mad as it is.

Soaring ballad-esque ‘Follow Me’ bursts into a slow electronic deep bass groove before speeding up to a more ‘normal’ dance beat. However nothing of the beauty of the song, chorus or otherwise is lost through this transformation. Dare I say “dub step” yet? No, I’ll keep that for later…

‘Big Freeze’ is U2. It’s Achtung Baby U2 in fact, but more importantly its brilliant! I loved this track on first listen, but then I also loved Achtung Baby before I believed I liked U2(!?). ‘Big Freeze’ is a stadium-filling piece of rock which will have you all waving your arms and rushing out to buy wrap-around sunglasses.

The 2nd Law has a first for Muse, the first song ever sung by someone other than Matt Bellamy. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme steps up to the plate and doesn’t do an OK job, he proves that he could EASILY have been the lead singer. His voice is fantastic (albeit extremely different from Matt’s “Ruler of the fucking World” approach) Chris’ delicate voice has been hidden way too long. The subject matter of ‘Save Me’ is autobiographical regarding his battle with alcoholism and then his sobriety. Nothing pompous, wacky or typical here: just grace.

As if one wasn’t enough Chris is back immediately after, this time singing ‘Liquid State’. A much more upbeat track and different voice to match the style, but still a great one. Where have you been the last five albums Chris?

Did I mention Dubstep earlier? Well ‘The 2nd Law – Unsustainable’ is that soldier! This track is phenomenal!! If you’ve seen the trailer for the album with the news report of the impending doom of the world then you’ll know some of the track. Classic subject matter for Matt Bellamy and musically something I frankly cannot wait to see live! ‘The 2nd Law – Isolated System’ is next and continues the theme, but this time in a more mellow fashion. For these two tracks think ‘Exogenisis’ from The Resistance but better in every way.

Indeed rather than take their progression from Black Holes and Revelations and The Resistance further and be in danger of exploding like a star the band have retracted, changed tact and went off headed for pastures whilst losing nothing which made them Muse. A fantastically executed (and brave) feat.

Truly Muse are one of the greatest British rock bands around today, and we should be proud that. The 2nd Law is everything that Muse are with a little bit of Queen, Achtung Baby and Skrillex thrown in. Schizophrenic joy!

Gareth Fraser
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