The 2nd Law
Oct 16, 2012 Web Exclusive
The sixth studio release by Brit rockers Muse is a classic case of art vs. science. The name of the album, The 2nd Law, in fact refers to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which theorizes that over time, the differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential of an equilibriated system can destroy the system itself. Could Muse be inferring something with the title?
Possibly that a band which has been in existence for 18 years, reached career highlights with prior releases Black Holes and Revelations and The Resistance, and is feeling the pressure of a changing landscape of highly-programmable music feels the pressure to destroy its very classic/heavy/opera rock essence? What's for sure is that the trio admittedly wanted to do something "radically different" with this album; what is yet to be discovered is if the science behind their sonic experimentation produced good art.
The major inefficiency of The 2nd Law is its lack of focus. When frontman Matt Bellamy posted on Twitter that the band's next release would be a "Christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia," he wasn't far off. But conquering nearly every genre of classic and modern music on one album is not bravado; it's a bad idea.
There are six different albums on The 2nd Law-and while Muse should have just picked one and ran with it, the real brilliance of The 2nd Law is the sum of its parts, epic tracks that have wooed the Olympics ("Survival") and are prime for superhero film scores ("Supremacy"). What makes "Animals" great is its guttural guitar and poetic license that have become Muse's brand; "Panic Station" succeeds with a funky new flavor that employs the horn section credited with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." Listeners may scratch their heads over the album in whole; but open minds will discover that the beauty of the standalone tracks saves The 2nd Law from total combustion.
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 5/10