on 2 October 2012
It might take a few listens but sooner rather than later the awesome power of this album will win you over. I listen to classic and modern Rock, classical piano (I've noticed that Muse like to reference Chopin on this - track no.4, Prelude - and their previous album The Resistance) and film scores (Hanz Zimmer first and foremost) and Muse combine all three and more into a fabulicious concoction of verve, rebellion and almighty rock tunes.
Inspirations are varied; the oft-cited Queen is present but also Bowie (in Madness and Panic Station)and John Barry (in the opening track, Supremacy, which is openly Bondesque) and other artists as well no doubt. Muse sure as hell know their stuff.
Stand outs for me are many but I will cite Supremacy, Madness, Survival, Follow Me, Explorers and the last track, Isolated System, which is one of the best productions Muse have ever accomplished in my opinion, and that is saying a lot, all the more so that it works even without Bellamy's penetrating voice.
The duff tracks I would say are the base player's tracks on fighting alcoholism, Save Me and Liquid State, which, while not outright bad, are overshadowed by the other songs and the first 2nd Law "dub step" track, Unsustainable, is also on the weak side.
I'd say this was an 8.5 out of 10, taking into account the weaker tracks, but is certainly more than four stars, hence the five stars.
In conclusion: Muse Rock
on 22 January 2013
Their latest album has 5 big anthems varying from an epic James Bond-style opener, extremely infectious beautifully-written 'Madness', Queen-Style stadium dance track 'Panic Station', Olympic anthem 'Survival' and the very U2 'Big Freeze'.
Along with these, the bass player gives a 'Pendulum' style vocal to 'Liquid State'.
There are some very serious and personal lyrics, but rather than feeling depressing the album has an energising effect that will certainly work well live at their stadium shows in Summer 2013.
Definitely worth buying the whole album, but if downloading individual tracks 'Save Me', 'Liquid State' and 'Animals' are probably the weakest tracks.
The last 2 tacks - 2nd Law work as a stand-alone piece, but need the rest of the album to put into perspective.
Part One has 'Jean Michel Jarre - Revolutions' style robotic vocal and noisy 'transformers-style' samples that you either like or hate.
Prt 2 is a beautiful digi-classical piece reminiscent of Mike Oldfield's 'tubular bells' - again with samples, it is 'like it or hate it' territory.
Not for everybody, but if you don't like 'Madness' - there is something seriously wrong with you!
on 24 August 2014
With their latest studio release, Muse have once again utilised various touches to their traditional thunderous prog/space rock sound, with elements of funk, synthpop and even dubstep. Experimenting has never been new to Muse who had previously explored symphonic music on their 2009 release The Resistance as well as electrorock on Black Holes and Revelations though some do consider this foray a step too far. Dubstep is a very heavily derided music genre which many slate as simply noise and many rock bands have experimented with it to dismal results like Korn on Path of Totality. Whilst the dubstep elements on The 2nd Law do keep the album from being as classic as Origin of Symmetry or Absolution, the album on the whole remains an excellent addition to Muse's catalogue. Despite negative reactions from fans, I on the whole enjoyed The 2nd Law very much and is completely worth checking out or even listening to if you're a Muse fan.
Initially, I avoided this album completely when I heard the band were using dubstep on it and I only listened to the singles just to get an idea of what it sounded like. The good news about The 2nd Law is that the album is not predominantly dubstep and either keeps to the same traditional Muse sound or experiments with music that wasn't really alien to them. This is overall a very underrated album that whilst nowhere near the band's best is still a solid record.
'Supremacy' opens up the album very well with bombastic guitar work and a John Barry-esque orchestra in the background. Many have compared this song to sounding like a James Bond theme song and it really does spring to mind when listening to the song. It's over the top and thunderous which is typical of a Muse song and it's awesome. 'Madness' recalls 'Undisclosed Desires' from The Resistance a lot with its more synth dominated sound. A lot of fans hate this song but I love it. It's got a cool haunting sound with 'mad' being repeated by electronic voices throughout the song and Matt Bellamy providing more soothing vocals. It resonates very well and is another standout on the album. 'Panic Station' was the last single to be released from the album and has more of a funk sound to it that sounds a lot like Red Hot Chili Peppers. It rips off a lot of songs from 'Another Bites the Dust' to 'Thriller' to 'Suicide Blonde' yet I still love the hell out of it. It's simply the band having fun with themselves instead of being profound as they normally are. As a side note, it's the first Muse song to have swearing in it.
'Survival' may catch people's attention as it was used as the theme song for the London Olympics. I can see why it was as it has that operatic bravado to it that can be used as motivation. Unfortunately, it also has the problem of being recalled for that alone and may end up being recognised as a novelty song. As a song, it's not bad but not excellent either. You can definitely tell that Matt is going a bit overboard with the Freddie Mercury vocals on it which does drag it a bit. 'Follow Me' is the one which will throw people off for sure with its dubstep beats. The song starts out well enough sounding like another usual Muse song until the breakdown starts. Overall, not a particularly good song. 'Explorers' is another favourite of mine from the album as exemplified by its simple synthesisers and Matt's emotional vocals. Bassist Chris Wolstenholme took over songwriting and vocal duties on 'Save Me' and 'Liquid State'. It took me a while to get into both songs as I wasn't used to hearing anyone other than Matt singing however both are excellent tracks that prove Chris to be an essential member of the group. 'Unsustainable' unfortunately returns the group the dubstep sound from 'Follow Me' whilst 'Isolated System' is a cool way to close off the album as a symphonic instrumental with audio clips spliced in.
My favourite songs off of The 2nd Law: 'Supremacy', 'Madness',' Panic Station', 'Animals', 'Explorers' and 'Liquid State'.
The 2nd Law is nowhere near Muse's best album and its attempts at experimentation are hit and miss. However, when the album works, it really does work and many of the songs are some of the strongest they have written. You'd have to not be a fan of the band to truly hate this album whilst fans would either love or simply like this or respectively dismiss it. For me, I was impressed by it for the most part and I preferred it to The Resistance which was a generally hit and miss album. The band have also announced recently that their next album would be more in the same vein as Origin or Absolution which is excellent news. For now though, I'm happy with what they have given us.
I'm really torn about this one. Muse are one of my favourite bands of all time and their outlandish and overblown creativity has resulted in some of the greatest albums ever made. Their willingness to evolve and embrace new directions have kept them relevant, consistently attracting new fans and has given their back catalogue a character and depth that some bands simply don't have. However, The 2nd Law, a bit like Black Holes & Revelations, has a pop sensibility running through the album which makes a fan like me slightly unsure about whether I truly like where they're headed. Although the "dubstep" moments have been the most contentious and widely debated elements of the album, their full embrace of 1980s Queen (my least favourite Queen era), as can be heard on "Madness" and "Panic Station" where guitar sounds, bass-lines and hooks are lifted, wholesale, from Freddie, Brian, Roger and John's catalogue. Even "Panic Station"'s guitar solo is reminiscent of Billy Idol's "White Wedding". I have to admit, it's terrific pop music, but it's not what I like about Muse, that's for sure. Still, it's never anything less than enjoyable and they provide decent distractions before the truly great songs of the album "Prelude"/"Survival", "Explorers" and "Big Freeze". The album opener, "Supremacy" is almost frighteningly good too. Unfortunately the album really tails off with the 2nd Law duo of songs which start off brilliantly but then it ends with a whimper rather than a bang. To surmise. this album is a bit of a disappointment to me, if I'm completely honest, but it's still extremely good. Just goes to show that it's all relative - my least favourite Muse album ever with a higher than average tally of average songs still manages to be one of my favourites of the year. If you could just stop channelling that inner Freddie you're embracing at the moment, Matt, that'd be great - oh, and stop letting Chris sing too. He's just not as good as you.
on 24 October 2012
It's easy to compare Muse with lots of bands, as they've always been compared to others die to their eclectic style: Radiohead, Queen, Led Zep, AC/DC - the list could go on.
Ultimately, there's very little out there from anyone that is truly original these days, but Muse seem to put their touch on so many styles and they've done it again with 'The 2nd Law'. Here's my opinion on each track, with comparisons where I felt it may be helpful:
1. Supremacy - great guitar riff, Matt Bellamy uses most of his vocal upper range with some sweeping backing tracks and a simple but rasping guitar solo mid-track (and he does like his Mexican trumpet sound, doesn't he?). Not one of their strongest openings, but still good.
2. Madness - electro-fuzz-pop with a great vocal line and a smooth, laid-back feel to the whole song. Nice solo in the middle which sounds simple but is probably more difficult than most wannabe guitarists think at first.
3. Panic Station - 80s funk, complete with toppy slap bass intro with a riff full of octaves, biscuit-tin snare drum and shouty vocals. Could be INXS, Animotion, Howard Jones. But it's Muse!
4. Prelude - classical concerto intro to the next track......
5. Survival - official Olympic theme. Sounds like a mix of Gilbert O'Sullivan, Don Giovanni, Pink Floyd and Queen at their heaviest. A choral epic.
6. Follow Me - sounds like Matt is singing with a Russian accent at the start! Touches of Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" surrounded by rave-anthem backing track. If you know your Muse, it's a kind of watered-down "Map of the Problematique". A spot of U2 thrown in towards the end.
7. Animals - bizarre rhythms at the beginning. Santana, anyone? Only really kicks in properly after 2.30 minutes, pre-solo, then classic Muse-pop with a heavy-ish riff to finish, much like "Unnatural Selection", but not as heavy.
8. Explorers - Love it! Beautiful lament/ballad. The lyrics are actually lamenting the misuse and overuse of the world's resources, but the tune is just wonderful. Soaring phrases and chord sequences that lift your heart. Please release this as a single, Muse!
9. Big Freeze - Love this also! Great upbeat rhythm with that superb 'flicky' guitar riff Matt does so well. Chris Wolstenholme plays the perfect bassline to accompany this song, and Dom's drumming is as tight as an atomic clock!
10. Save Me - sung by Chris. Nice voice! Chris is to Matt what Brian May is to Freddie. Not a 'strong' song, but a good album track with a nice ethereal feel to it.
11. Liquid State - a Chris rock-belter with a corking riff. Hints of "Hysteria". Chris sings it well, though Matt's voice may have suited it better - Chris's voice isn't quite rocky enough.
12. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable - another classical overture intro, over a spoken 'news report/scientific speech' line that kicks into a massive dubstep groove. Wow, it kicks! Matt must have loved using his guitar effects on this one.
13. The 2nd Law: Isolated System - Tubular Bells for the 21st Century, morphing into War of the Worlds. Leaves you wondering about your place in the world.
Overall - like any Muse album it takes a few listens for it to grow on you (unlike so many 'instant hit' bubblegum pop albums these days). But surely that's what makes a classic album? Maybe. I don't think this will be classed as one of their best by a lot of critics - it's no 'Origin of Symmetry' or 'Absolution' - but it is a step on from 'Black Holes...' and 'The Resistance'.
I like it, however, and there are enough good tunes, funky riffs and rock hits to keep lots of people happy.
It'll find its niche in my car stereo, that's for sure!
on 12 October 2012
This seems to be a bit of marmite album - though I'm glad to see that the 5* votes are starting to pile up. I love everything Muse have ever done; their best work is sublime. My own feeling about this album is that maybe the band have grown up a bit, there's less of the angst-y teenager, more reflective adult in the lyrics. I strongly disagree with reviewers who say they've sold out. This is Muse moving on, and moving on in a very interesting direction. I've listened to the album twice now. Even on my first listen I felt that this was probably the best thing I've heard this year. On second listen I was starting to get very excited indeed - this is complex, beautiful music. I feel that this album improves as it goes along - the first tracks are good but the middle section is amazing. I suspect I will be listening to this - and hearing new things within the music - for a very long time.
on 3 October 2012
Having booked to see the band in Paris in a couple of weeks, I decided I needed to do some homework. Up until now I've only bought Muse on CD, and always felt that the either medium didn't do justice to the music or they were just pretty ordinary in a studio compared to their live performances, but given that I've invested in a decent system so I am now heavily back into vinyl I decided to give this a whirl.
Wow. Like all Muse albums there are tracks that you wonder why they bothered, but these are soon forgotten as you at last get the full richness of the Muse sound. Plagiarists? Well if you think you detect early King Crimson, Radiohead and, of course, Queen with a handful of Jean Michel Jarre (and no doubt more) I'd go with that. But it is well wrapped in Muse sound. A nice by product of this "influences" thing in any case is that this album got me spinning stuff I'd not listened to for a while. The 2nd Law tracks got me playing King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" for example.
The quality of the recording is excellent, the production of the sleeve a little disappointing. Minimalism is all very well, but this is a vinyl double album and could have taken a bit more. But if you liked "Black Holes" and were then a little disappointed in the last album then be assured, Muse are back with chorals and strings to boot.
Muse are so unique in their sound that if they produced record after record that simply sounded like the one before, they would be criticised for 'sameness'. If they experiment, people who liked the previous output will criticise too. So this is a record that walks the line between the two demands: it has 'Absolution' type tracks but also moves the band forward in different areas.
I found myself thinking of Queen more than once as I listened to this album: massive arrangements with a soaring voice to the fore. Very effective. Then there are other tracks where Matt Bellamy uses his voice as another instrument - distorted, impossibly high notes on top of a huge vocal range - a direct throwback to earlier albums.
Muse fans will not be disappointed in this. Their material is evolving, as it must, but their musicianship remains of the highest order. Very good. Four stars.
on 26 October 2012
I must say that this album is way better than the Resistance - I felt they'd lost some of the elements that made them Muse on the Resistance. On this album however, although perhaps more poppy or commercial, utilized the good Muse elements. While their style is evolving, and is not the same edgy stuff like on Origin of Symmetry, I still love this album because it has so many good things about it. The only problem I have is that the two Chris Wolstenholme songs are not that good - had they wanted him to sing on an album, they should have done so previously... Matt has come into his own as a brilliant frontman, and to take away from that by adding two average songs does not do the album justice. I really love Madness, Panic Station, Follow Me, Big Freeze, and the two "2nd Law" songs...If I want to hear 'old Muse', I'll just take out Origin of Symmetry - no need to complain.
on 17 August 2014
I admit I wasn't bowled over when I first heard this, but the more I listened to it the more it grew on me. It really did take persistence on my part and watching the Live at Rome gig certainly helped. I have to say that after a lot of listens, the album really grew on me. The music itself is really ambitious and touching at times. Best tracks for me: Isolated System, Supremacy, Madness and Animals.
I used to think the first three Muse albums were the best, but after getting into their new material, I see flaws in their old stuff that I was previously blind to. Absolution is probably my favourite album still, but The 2nd Law is a great addition to Muse's catalogue and I'm excited for their future.
For all its own weaknesses, The 2nd Law is still the best music I've heard since, well Muse's previous album.