Muse: The 2nd Law

muse, 2nd lawMuse: The 2nd Law
Do artists ever ask themselves “how big is too big?” Did Tolstoy ask himself that question while writing War and Peace? Did Michaelangelo ask himself that question while painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling? Did Stan Margulies ask himself that question while producing Roots? No one knows except the artists themselves but listening through Muse‘s latest album, The 2nd Law, it is a safe assumption that the thought never cross Matthew Bellamy’s mind. Every grandiose idea that the Muse frontman has ever had seems to spill out on to the album creating mixed messages and little continuity.

Those familiar with the lead single and Olympic theme song, “Survival” might have thought that The 2nd Law was going to be Bellamy’s attempt at revamping the Gladiator soundtrack. The track featured two distinct backing vocal lines: one of an operatic female vocalist and another that sounded like the cadence of viking rowers. These vocal lines are enhanced by the arena rock drumline and Bellamy’s typical guitar theatrics.

But the super masculine perception that the lead single promoted was destroyed in many listeners’ minds with the second single from the album, “Madness.” The track used modern electronics to create a post-dubstep beat. Then Bellamy produces his most gentle vocal take ever, something between Frank Ocean‘s “Novacane” and George Michael‘ “Faith.”

With two singles on completely different ends of the spectrum what could listeners reasonable expect from the album? Something demure and delicate? Something masculine and posturing? It turns out the rest of the album is nothing like either single. “Follow Me” is the band’s great foray into dubstep with British trio Nero producing the track. “Panic Station” is a heavy metal disco track that sounds more like Electric Six than Muse. The album closes with “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and “The 2nd Law: Isolated Systems” which are symphonic tracks that replace Bellamy’s vocals with various spoken word clips from news broadcasts, etc.

With the album lacking a consistent musical theme, it ends up feeling like you just watched four episodes of Robot Chicken. It is episodic, odd, and concludes an hour after it began. While several of the tracks may be among the best of Muse’s career, the fact remains that The 2nd Law is a collection of songs, not an album. From a band who has made their living making deeply conceptualized albums, this one feels off.
Rating: 6.4/10
MP3: Muse “Follow Me”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl