The 2nd Law
Oct 16, 2012 Web Exclusive
There's a certain difficulty in writing a Muse review: trash them and you risk incurring the wrath of their fans for invoking those same tired (but still entirely pertinent) Queen references; praise them and you'll be shot down by anyone who has ever sat through one of their records sober. The good news about new album The 2nd Law is that the band has expanded the pool of artists from whom they shamelessly steal ideas. Opener "Supremacy," for example, is unabashed in practically sampling John Paul Jones's string section from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." "Madness," with its infuriating stutter, might as well have Queen's Brian May playing the solo from "I Want to Break Free." And the vocal line from "Explorers" might lead to the band being called out by Freddie Mercury's estate, so unashamedly does it plagiarise "Don't Stop Me Now."
Muse has never been about subtlety any more than they were about originality: "haters gonna hate," fans will tell you; "it's fun," they'll say. Except it isn't anymore. Muse have always been a prog rock band at heart, albeit one far more po-faced than their 1970s muses: songs about thermodynamics and vague, badly-defined conspiracy theories they saw late at night on a public broadcasting network populated their earlier, more enjoyable albums too. The difference is that with 2001's sophomore album, Origin of Symmetry, and 2003's third album, Absolution, the band created memorable rock riffs and licks like the classic rock bands that inspired them, things that may have been dumb but are remembered by millions today. Songs such as London Olympics 2012 single "Survival," on the other hand, have all the big swollen orchestration but lurch forgettably from verse to chorus like a drunk crashing a monster truck at 5 mph.
Such previous Muse songs as "Hysteria" and "Time is Running Out" have that same kind of grandiose euphoria that translates well to a stadium of Coldplay fans, akin to many of the Live Aid-era bands. But The 2nd Law is the sound of the band who made Absolution as they continue to disappear up their own collective super-massive black hole: an album full of testosterone but draped in the thinnest veil of superficial darkness and half-conceived ideas about space and government and the band themselves probably don't know what else. It's about as much fun as The Darkness without the cat suits. You can say "haters gonna hate" all you like, but when an album is both as precious and lazily tossed off as this, they have every right to.
Author rating: 1/10
Average reader rating: 5/10
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