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Album Review: Muse – The 2nd Law

Album Review: Muse - The 2nd Law
Nathan Brooks
  • On July 7, 2016
  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009130165977

Review Overview

Album Score
8
8

Unique

It is a bit of an inconsistent mess, but Muse's The 2nd Law never loses the listener's attention, and is still their most daring and unique effort yet.

Album Review: Muse – The 2nd Law by Nathan Brooks

English rock band Muse’s 2009 album The Resistance blew everyone’s heads off. It’s a masterclass in stadium shaking bombast. Every track makes me want to go to the houses of parliament and punch the nearest politician in the nose. How on earth they were going to top it was beyond anybody. So their sixth studio album,The 2nd Law (released in 2012), had a lot to live up to.

Instead of trying to outdo The Resistance, Muse went in a slightly different direction. They did produce more of the progressive/symphonic rock from that album. However, they also chose to elaborate on the brief dip into electronic music provided by the third track Undisclosed Desires. The result is easily their most unique and subversive album to date. Which is fitting, considering how much Muse like to challenge the status quo.

Album Review: Muse – The 2nd Law

Is it any good, though? I think it is, in a weird way. The bizarre mixture of insane Muse-iness and experimental electronica doesn’t make for a very consistent album. But I like its daring attitude and courage to be totally different. Take Madness, the second track on the album. It’s like a slower tempo, more avant-garde version of Queen’s I Want to Break Free. Running throughout the track is a vocal riff going “Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-madness”, imitating a baby calling for its mother. It’s nothing like anything Muse has done before.

Supremacy, the track before Madness, is more like The Resistance. It’s an awesome symphonic rock piece that can join Radiohead’s Spectre in the hall of songs that should have been Bond themes. After Madness, we have Panic Station. I honestly think this might be my favourite Muse song ever. It’s so unique, featuring a gloriously funky (and relentlessly cheesy) bassline and an infectiously enjoyable chorus. It’s a guilty pleasure, admittedly, as objectively the most impressive thing they’ve done is the epic Exogenesis: Symphony. But I just can’t help but love Panic Station.

Lyrically, more effort is needed

We have a quick 57 second prelude (ingeniously named Prelude) that flows into their London 2012 theme Survival. Musically, it’s perfect for the games. There’s strange, ambient chanting that instantly make you think of ancient Greece. Lyrically, however, I think they could have put in a bit more effort. “Life is a race” isn’t the most unique metaphor ever. The rest of it’s just Matt Bellamy singing “I’m gonna win” over and over. Follow Me injects more experimental sounds into the album, and is a solid attempt at electronic dance music. I like it a lot, and I hate EDM.

Animals has some very attention grabbing, flamenco-y guitar on it. Bellamy’s vocals have this pseudo-in-control sound, like he’s about to break with rage at any point. You can hear an angry mob shouting in the background, emphasising the anti capitalist lyrics, a common Muse trope. Explorers is another symphonic track, with a beautiful, violin populated composition. Bellamy’s vocals are again reminiscent of Queen. This time sounding like a more sedate Don’t Stop Me Now.

Muse’s most sincere and personal tracks ever

Big Freeze has a blatant U2 vibe which, contrary to popular opinion, is a good thing in my book. It’s very similar to Pride (In the Name of Love). The two tracks that follow are written and sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme about his alcoholism. Save Me and Liquid State are easily Muse’s most sincere and personal tracks ever. The former is a beautiful tribute to Wolstenholme’s family, and how they’ve always stood by him. The latter is a much darker song that explores what happens to Wolstenholme when drink gets the better of him. It’s really quite harrowing.

The album’s grand finale, The 2nd Law, is served in two parts: Unsustainable and Isolated System. The first starts off as an epic symphonic piece, with an orchestra and a choir. An audio track of a news reporter begins, leading into the experimental dubstep part of the song. I love it. Not least because it’s all performed through actual instruments. Isolated System is a more minimalist arrangement, featuring random news samples halfway through (one of them being Nigel Farage on the EU). It’s a nice change of pace that rounds of the album on a contrasting, sombre note.

The 2nd Law is a bit of a mess. It’s nowhere near as consistent and accomplished as Origin of Symmetry. It also never tops The Resistance in the spectacle department. What it does do is leave the listener baffled, intrigued, and entertained all at the same time. And it does this better than any other Muse album to date.

Comments

  1. Michelle Dhillon

    STORMING review! You’re a genius 😀
    Love the humour, parallels with Queen and even U2, intelligent analysis of the lyrics AND you’ve clearly listened to keeping sentences concise. Hallelujah.
    You should be cloned, immediately.
    Oh and I think Mark will love this!

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    • Nathan Brooks

      Thanks! It’s amazing what a little editing can do. I managed to chop off around 200 words from the original draft and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

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      • Michelle Dhillon

        No problem at all Nathan – that is amazing feedback to hear from you about enjoying editing 😀 Funny as I actually think you could do half my job now, haha.

        In terms of word count – yes I do encourage less words rather than more, but if you want to keep it a certain length, that’s your choice and just go for it. If I think a paragraph doesn’t need to be in there I’ll remove it, but in practice I rarely do this as generally everything has a point. When it comes to your work, everything in there is really valuable, so don’t feel pressured to remove things because you think that is what is wanted. What has massively impressed me – and what is much more important – is the fact that your sentence structure has become extremely concise and less ‘overly wordy’. This has almost been an instant change! Brilliant work, and not easy to do. Big fat thumbs up and I love your opening paragraph. Fantastic.

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  2. TakeABow30

    Nathan firstly I have to say well done for writing such a brilliant piece on Muse’s The 2nd Law. After reading this I was crying with joy as there’s now a second person that has reviewed Muse! Thank you! Also I have to apologise in advance as the comment that is about to follow may be a very long one as my inner Muse geek is about to come out. When Michelle told me about you submitting a review for Muse, I was freaking out as I was waiting for this to go live just to see the amount of detail that you had gone into your Muse review.

    You brilliantly analyse both production values and lyrical content while also expanding on the points you make. The “Ma-ma-ma-madness” was compared so well to a baby calling for it’s mother, I had never thought about it in this way before! With Madness being rhythmically resemblant to Queen’s I Want to Break Free, it also has similarities to George Michael’s Faith as the rhythm is quite similar vocally. The pinnacle of this track is when Matt hits the high note when he sings “I need to love”, GOOSEBUMPS. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Watch the performance of this from their live DVD Live From Olympic Stadium, he hits the note even higher! Panic Station is just irresistibly funky, Muse have mastered the concept of immersing themselves within the electronic and funk genre. Despite the bass line being cheesy, Chris Wolstenholme’s slap bass skills just get better and better. I’ve always viewed Panic Station as Muse going back to their glory days where they don’t take themselves too seriously with topics such as politics. It shows them actually having fun! Watch the music video. It’ll be right up your alley Nathan.. It’s so crazy and psychedelic. MUSE DO THE CONGA WITH A FREAKIN’ OCTOPUS.

    One thing that has always been strong in all Muse albums is Matt’s classical influences, Prelude is based off Chopin’s Etude Opus 10 No. 3 and Explorers is influenced by Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 18 which can be heard at around 18:40. Rachmaninoff has always been a heavy influence on Muse’s music especially Origin of Symmetry’s Space Dementia. This was basically a tribute to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto 2. With the electronic and dub step side of things, the reason why Muse decided to experiment even more on their 6th album was because of a Skrillex concert that the band had attended. Follow Me works brilliantly with the dub step drops as it manages to balance both electronic music and dub step correctly. Electronic artist Nero co-produced the track which may explain why the track has consistency. Interesting fact for you, did you know the rhythm of Follow Me was based around Matt Bellamy’s new born son’s heartbeat where Bellamy recorded this as a sample with his iPhone? You can hear his son’s heartbeat at the start very faintly. It’s things like this that makes Bellamy the genius that he is. He always finds new approaches to music and manages to create something so unique from it. Despite having Nigel Farage’s name mentioned in this review haha Isolated System is a great interlude, the way the track builds rhythmically through the minimalist pianos always reminds me of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. The 2nd Law is an experimental mess as the album does try to achieve a lot musically. However Muse do pull off the various genres well by embedding it into their sound. But it’s how over ambitious it is what makes The 2nd Law a mess at the same time. I feel like as Muse’s albums have got a lot more personal with each album (which is a good thing), the lyrical content is questionable at times with the topics that are discussed. But a band like Muse can pull off things like this because it’s what they do best. They make their music different and exciting so that the same album is never produced. Matt Bellamy actually stated that he wants to experiment even more for their 8th release after going back to their rock roots in latest release Drones. All of us Muse fans are scared for the eighth release, however if it’s an experimental mess like The 2nd Law you can be sure that all of us will still love it secretly and still be singing the songs when they next play live 😉 Just out of curiosity Nathan, have you ever seen Muse live? If you haven’t I strongly recommend you see them. They are the best live band of our generation. Sublime live act.

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    • Michelle Dhillon

      Lol probably the longest comment in the world, Mark!! Haha 😀
      You have SO much knowledge about the production techniques though, it’s crazy. I love the Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Nero and even Mike Oldfield connections. Awesome, thankyou 😛

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    • Nathan Brooks

      1) Thanks!
      2) Lots of really interesting stuff there. I was aware of some if it but not a lot. Matt Bellamy really is brilliant.
      3) Honestly I quite like experimental messes. I’m usually drawn to the weirdest a band has to offer.
      4) I love the music video for Panic Station. I’ve sprung it on some of my friends before just to see their reactions. They’re a lot of fun.
      5) I haven’t seen them live, but I would love to.

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