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Album of the Week: Muse – The 2nd Law

Muse : The 2nd Law

The day has finally arrived. Muse, English, art-rock band, has released a new album, The 2nd Law (T2L) and they certainly did not disappoint. Cleverly named, in a typical Muse-like fashion, the album consists of an array of musical genres, covering topics concerning worldwide politics masked by scientific theories and ideology.

To start, it must be said that this album might be one of the most well produced records of all time. Do not listen to this on your laptop or your, free, Apple headphones. Everything from the tone of the guitars to the echo of the drums needs to be taken into account – The 2nd Law is a production masterpiece.

With that said, a huge amount of credit needs to be given to the band for their musicianship. Prior to its release, Muse members described influences such as Queen, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder and even Skrillex – this largely shows throughout each song on the album. Many reviews refer to these influences as “rip-offs”, yet they are really quite the opposite. Bellamy, Wolstenholme and Howard chose specific musical influences and complemented them in their own way. It’s truly inspiring to listen to a song influenced by several rock legends and actually pay tribute in a positive and unique way. This album has set the bar pretty high for other bands that claim to have musical “influences”, none of which ever show through their records.

To describe this album in one word is quite a challenge, however, “Big” is definitely the first thing to come to mind. No expense was spared in the production of this record. You will hear horns, abstract percussions, numerous back-up singers, strings, synths, electronics, and all the other important pieces to the puzzle of Muse – for lack of better words, the album is “big” – it’s “huge”. Truthfully, the first 6 or 7 songs are much stronger then the second half, however, when listened to as a whole, the album is much more complete and is entirely understood.

Setting an upbeat, positive tone for this record, opening song, Supremacy, really hits the ground running. A personal favorite of mine, Supremacy is extremely dramatic and climatic – the two “tics” crucial in a perfect song. It’s definitely one of the heaviest tracks on the album as well – the “Stockholm Syndrome” of The 2nd Law if you will. If this song isn’t the theme music for the next Bond movie, the 007-music department should be fired. Quickly aiming to please, Madness takes the stage next as the radio hit of T2L. Beautifully written, Madness is an electronic ballad begging to be sang along with – not to mention is has one of the classiest guitar solo’s on a radio hit in years.

Coming off of Madness, Panic Station is an upbeat, Queen/Bowie driven song that almost screams “Another One Bites the Dust”. Driven by a great bass line, the lyrics are easily remember-able and the drums make you want to get up a dance – an absolutely dynamic song comfortably sitting in the number 3 spot on T2L. The mood quickly jumps back to a dramatic tone with the Prelude to Survival. Pre-release of this album, Survival was heard by many as the song of the 2012 Olympics. With this in mind, it is expected that, overall, the song had to be huge. A ton of backtracking and instrumentation was involved in creating this epic journey through the mind of an athlete. Bellamy does a great job of showing an aggressive, competitive tone through his vocals and the operatic voices in the back-up vocals make it all that more impressive. It was, however, incomplete without its prelude – its bothersome that the two songs were not released together.

Follow Me, a song co-produced by Nero, has a progressive-electronic rhythm with lyrics about the birth of Bellamy’s new son. Yes, it’s catchy and almost sweet in a sense, however, the lyrics in this song fall a bit short – it seems like a step and repeat pattern – too many of the same lines. One thing worth mentioning is the passion in Bellamy’s voice – it’s almost as if he is singing directly to his newborn son, adding a bit of redemption to this track. Animals comes next with an extremely Pink Floyd-esque feel to it. The production of this song is nearly over-whelming. The drums are precisely crisp and the guitar over-tone is absolutely beautiful – classical with a Muse-like timing. It’s not over done and really leaves you begging for more – actually disappointed that the track ever ends.

Following Animal comes Explorers – unfortunately there is nothing special here. Considered the musical ballad of the album, Explorers lacks in real lyrical content, again repeating similar lines over and over again. The same holds true with Save Me, two songs later (“I picture Tiny Tim singing about denial…80’s style”). Fortunately, the hidden gem between these two songs is Big Freeze. This track definitely has a “U2/Sting” sound to it, as well as the deep lyrical meanings that both bands often pride themselves on. This is where the implication of the album really shines through; Bellamy’s plea to save the earths resources. Muse tends to make music with a tech-edge which in turn sends a powerful message: technology advancement and the digital age can destroy our society due to loss of resources, wars, and crumbling economies. This is the underlying theme of T2L, again screaming out in the 12th track, The 2nd Law: Unsustainable.

A song written and sang by bassist, Wolstenholme, Liquid State is extremely progressive – old school Muse if you will. His voice is deep and even a bit sinister, much like the back-up vocals in Supermassive Black Hole. This track comes off as very hopeful, complimented by an up beat, metal sound. It picks up towards the end but concludes much too quickly. The Second Law: Unsustainable is where the magic happens on this album. After paying credit to classic artists such as Queen and Zeppelin, Muse decides to throw in a track completely driven by the new EDM music phase sweeping the nation: Dubstep. Highly influenced by Skrillex sounds and drops, Unsustainable combines modern progressive rock with heavy hitting electronic breakdowns – all sounds actually made by the band, rather then a simple computer program. Holding true to the overall theme, Unsustainable actually defines the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, this strengthened by the electronic breakdowns throughout the song.

The concluding song of T2L, Isolated System, seems less like a track to be deeply listened too, but more to help you contemplate what was just absorbed and reflect on the album as a whole. Obviously, The 2nd Law was not intended to be loaded with radio hits, but more of a complete album where every song works together to build a tightly produced, easy flowing masterpiece. T2L truthfully feels more like a rock opera then typical studio album and would be spectacular on a big stage. After listening to this album through and through, you begin to realize that Muse has grown hugely. Bellamy could easy write a best selling score to a Broadway musical if he wanted to. They are trying something different; it may not be breakdown-heavy-Muse, but the composition and production is done extremely well. You get the feel that Muse is trying to either own or create a new genre of rock. Pairing unique electronic effects with real instruments and heavy production makes this album spectacular. Again, I highly suggest listening to it as a whole, on good speakers or headphones, and pay attention to the minor details throughout. You will most definitely not be disappointed, especially on your 2nd and 3rd listen.

- Talco & Choda Boi

ChewTheDirt rates Muse: The 2ND Law a 9/10

 

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