Photo credit: Gavin Bond
Album Pick of the Month: Muse’s The 2nd Law
By Mike Duffy, Oct. 1, 2012
Listening to Muse’s sixth studio album, The 2nd Law, one can’t help but think about Freddie Mercury’s epic rock-opera vocals if they were tracked over a 21st-century techno soundtrack.Throughout the record, the imprint of Led Zeppelin and U2 are also evident, as is the current dubstep movement taking the world by storm.
All in all, The 2nd Law, titled after the second law of thermodynamics, represents an evolution in the English band’s sound while still maintaining its arena-ready roots.
The lead single, “Madness,” is a dreamy tune that features a head-nodding bass line that will cool down even the most aggressive clubbers. Frontman Matthew Bellamy is calling a lover back to him with the line, “I have finally seen the light. I have finally realized… What you mean.” Sweetly crooned over the icy groove, it’s as seductive as Muse has ever been.
The third song, “Panic Station,” feels like Prince or Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers contributed. A chunky bassline contributes to the foot-stomping catchable chorus:
“Ooo 1, 2, 3, 4 fire’s in your eyes,
And this chaos, it defies imagination,
Ooo 5, 6, 7, minus 9 lives,
You’ve arrived at panic station.”
Speaking of bass, for the first time ever, bassist Chris Wolstenholme takes the lead vocals on a pair of tracks he penned himself — “Save Me” and “Liquid State.”
The new effort also marks a foray into dubstep, inspired by watching current electronic dance music phenomena Skillrex perform live in October 2011.
“Some of that hard dubstep and brostep coming from America, is capturing the imagination,” Bellamy told NME. “The moshpit has moved from guitars and gone towards the laptop, so with that song we’re trying to see if we can challenge the laptop. We created something that was dubsteppy but we wanted to see if we could do it with real instruments. We wanted to ask, ‘Can rock bands compete with what these guys are doing?”
There are hints on “Undisclosed Desires,” but the dubstep really hits you in the face with “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable.”
And Muse has tried to take a political stand with this album, as well. In many of Bellamy’s lyrics, he talks about the gross consumption of many of the world’s top powers.
The inspiration? It came directly from his television screen.
“I was sitting watching Newsnight, with Jeremy Paxman going on about the Euro crisis,” he told The Huffington Post. “It was late 2011, and one bloke on the panel linked the economic crisis to unsustainability. He said it was just how energy functioned, and it’s part of human evolution that there’s a conflict in ourselves we can’t yet overcome. It was so simple.”
“Animals” is probably the band’s most political song. The track samples Wall Street traders yelling before the closing bell sounds, a shot across the bow of bankers who attributed to their countries’ debt problems.
“It’s pretty dark how lost in it these people are getting… they sound like a bunch of animals,” drummer Dom Howard told the BBC.
As somber as those themes are, Muse still conveys a message of hope, illustrated by the inclusion of the heartbeat of Bellamy’s then-unborn child (with actor Kate Hudson) on the track “Follow Me”, as if to pay tribute to future generations.
If there is a connection to Muse’s past anthemic rockers, “Explorers” might best serve that role. The song is driven by a dreamy piano, but the string arrangement gives it more of an epic feel.
When a band as big as the 15-million-selling Muse sprinkles in new sounds, some fans of their classic vibe might be judgmental.
But with The 2nd Law, Muse makes it work. The album is flecked with electronic dance music, but the addition of live instruments keeps things honest while also appealing to glowstick-wielding fans waiting for the bass to drop.
The 2nd Law is really a rock and dance and funk party that is open to all.