Album Review: Muse – The 2nd Law

(Written for ELECTRIC BANANA, 30th September 2012)

“It’s a race, but I’m gonna win… I’ll never lose, and I choose to survive”. Those were the rather unimaginative and unintentionally hilarious lyrics cried during ‘Survival’ which  Muse unveiled a few weeks ago as the official tune of the London Olympics. Inevitably, they were accused of jumping sharks like hurdles.

Yet in the ‘Panic Station’, frontman Matt Bellamy orders “do what the fuck you want to, there’s no one to appease.” This has been their moral for years, but with The 2nd Law, Muse go all out to drive the message home. With enough power to drive him to say ‘fuck’ anyway.

Perhaps the definitive track is ‘Follow Me’. This is the centerpiece that has been eagerly awaited and dreaded in about equal measure, ever since Matt said the dreaded ‘d’ word in an interview – dubstep. When they do it, they luckily do it properly, coming as no surprise as the track was produced in collaboration of Nero. What makes the tune so defining though is just how many styles are squeezed into less than four minutes.

Unfortunately, this might be its downfall, as nothing hangs around for long enough. For example, there is even an inevitable ‘whoa’ section, reminiscent of U2’s With or Without You tailor-made to be sung along to live, though it lasts for such a short time that, symbolic or not, it is made rather redundant. Never has something that sounds so huge sounded quite so incomplete.

Themes often dwell upon politics, the stock market and the fate of the planet as the oil runs out, and it’s never quite apparent whether they are taking themselves seriously, or whether listeners should give them the benefit of the doubt and forgive their sins as just having a bit of fun. They are clearly experimenting. For example, the closing two-part title track scratches in samples of news reports. Some will see this as amazing and thought provoking, and others will find it plain irritating. Whether during a highly anticipated album is the time or place to experiment will split opinion.

‘Big Freeze’ borrows its name from one of the potential ultimate fates of the universe. Everything will continue to expand infinitely to such a grand, unimaginable scale that not even the most competent of scientists can get their heads around. However, one day all energy will run out. The universe will cool to a temperature so low that life will cease to exist. This is unusually fitting as the album is a defining example of a band reaching for all corners to create a spectacular event, but in the end, without the flashing lights and fireworks it is not nearly as fun.

The record is less an album and more an explosive experience that doesn’t work so well at home, though they certainly can’t be faulted for their bravery. It is mostly good fun, but for lack of a better term, it’s a bit of a mess.

Score: 6/10

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