Thursday, 27 September 2012

Review: Muse - The 2nd Law

 There is no doubt whatsoever that the dolloping of press, statement and ideas that have been spread about The 2nd Law, the sixth album from Teinmouth rock icons Muse, has made it the most anticipated album of 2012 whether you enjoy it or not. But with such head turning revelations that the trio had been taking influences from "real" dubstep superstar Skrillex, to the unveiling of questionable new songs in the form of the soft dream pop of Madness and the official song used for the London 2012 Olympics, Survival, a song that gave long time Muse fans one of those long time Metallica fan moments of looking at the past lyrical strokes of genius from the likes of Knights of Cydonia and comparing them to the sound of a lunatic screaming "I'm gonna win!" over and over again. With these notions alone, the band have had a lot of talking up to do to convince fans that in the wake of the band becoming a big league in the world of stadium filling alternative rock, their music is still as genuine a release as Absolution or Origin of Symmetry.

 On reflection of listening to the album in full thanks to it now streaming online via The Guardian's website, genuine probably isn't a keyword. Describing it as a devoted rock release in the same way you might describe a Foo Fighters or Gaslight Anthem album wouldn't cut it either and it's quite likely that you could never comfortably view Muse as a rock band again because, they have completely lost it. With 2009's highly built up and ultimately disappointing The Resistance, Muse fans lost faith in the band's rock and roll credentials as they played simply songs with guitars that would sound nice on a pop friendly radio station. And with The 2nd Law, there's further evidence of Matt Bellamy putting his guitar to one side in favour of synthesizers. And ultimately, this album is a sign of the band selling out. It's a sign that Muse have stopped caring about being a rock band in favour of being as weird, artful and creative as possible with pop friendly sensibilities to bring their sound to more people than ever. It is a sign of a band losing their roots with what made them. And it's fucking brilliant.

 So, the kind of rocking out that was delivered so faithfully on the likes of Absolution has been dropped for this album but when spiraling riffs and dirty basslines from Chris Wolstenholme do kick in on the likes of bold opener Supremacy and the grungy Liquid State, the overall sound is akin to some brainy rascals sneaking into the recording of a blockbuster film score, or a live orchestral performance with guitars, playing along with the classical musicians and stealing the show. And with this addition of symphonic elements the band manage to sound heavier than they ever have. Bellamy and Wolstenholme have enough density in the guitars to give the song some force and spectacular grandeur to open an album with, which is a relief when reflecting on one of the band's horrendous statements that "dubstep was the new metal." Groans.

 Speaking of which, the electronic elements that Muse have incorporated here play a much key more key role on this album than on previous outings. Now when you first listen to Madness, you might think that this sounds like the less achieving love child of Nine Inch Nails' Closer and Radiohead's Everything in it's Right Place that doesn't come with much subtlety but makes up for it with the kind of hooks that make you begin tapping your feet effortlessly to a song that you just made an insulting remark about. More importantly, the band's newfound influence from dubstep only manages to push the uplifting grace of Follow Me, a song that opens like a musical soundtrack gone to Hell before that bass drop kicks in, to a higher state of euphoria that no one could come down from. More controversially, Unsustainable carries of the sound of uber mainstream dubstep that Skrillex delivers and Nero delivers in a way that is too incredible for words. Muse's attempt is flawless in it's nature. Bass drops with powerful hooks are key in what they have to offer, however, if you wanted to focus on that alone, then the band's obvious love for symphonic elements will get in the way. Have to say, I feel quite unique that my one complaint about Muse doing dubstep is that there's not enough dubstep.

 But whether the main backdrop is performed by riffs, orchestras or buzzing synthesizers, Muse constantly display an effortless ability to pen a song of immaculate class and grace. Indeed, the album has enough Queen influences on it's sleeve to make The Darkness look like their main influence was from Sunn O))) but there' some kind of brilliance hidden within that. You would be stupid for not immediately coming to the conclusion that Panic Station's bassline is Wolstenholme ripping off Another One Bites the Dust but there's a brilliance in the way that an influence from a piece of musical so simple can be translated into such a theatrically grand outing as it is on the song. Even the powerhouse melodies of Survival makes the song a more exciting proposition than the constant yelling of "I'm in a race!" that Bellamy is so content with.

 Ultimately, the fact that Muse are now at a stage where they can go forth into the realm of big stadium rock names, construct a selection of songs that would defy the beliefs and expectations of everyone you've ever met and sound like they're having the time of their lives while doing it is what really makes The 2nd Law so inspiring. It is 100% Muse and that means 100% insanity, 100% creativity and more than ever 100% surprises. It's one of those albums that proves that a band can do whatever they want however they want and still command a tonne of respect for doing so. There will be plenty that will say the band have lost touch with their roots, they're not making nice emo rock songs anymore and they've become an obnoxious, pretentious group of arseholes. Of course they have. This was always going to happen. Thank God it did.

Muse's The 2nd Law is out on 1st October via Warner Music. The band will tour the UK in October with The Joy Formidable.

1 comment:

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