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We Are Very Much A-Muse-d
The 2nd Law - Muse
Member Name: missrarr
The 2nd Law - Muse
Advantages: Superb, indulgent and so much fun
Disadvantages: Not a hint of one!
Equally, there are some reviews I hold back from writing - because I want to be sure I'm doing a fair job of reviewing something remarkable. And, my pre-existing passion for the band notwithstanding, I feel I can write a truly, fully enthusiastic review for this album, because I feel that it is not only a band coming of age but also realising that, a creative core enjoying that they can indulge in their influences and own style, with the full knowledge and confidence that comes with realising that you are one of the most incredible live rock acts in the world.
So now I hope I can do justice to this album, having seen the live performance of it last year as well. They may not be to everyone's taste, but to me Muse have surpassed themselves with The 2nd Law, and here's why I believe so...
***THE 2ND LAW***
Muse fans across the world batted a collective eyelid when the pre-release media releases about The 2nd Law included news that Muse had undertaken the influence of dubstep. The subsequent track "Unsustainable" was used for a promotional video which really did had people wondering where this album was going. Having seen it live, I can tell you that the same doubts lingered in my mind before being obliterated in the O2 as the remarkable track opened the show.
There are multiple influences on show in this album, and you do have the feeling that the band are indulging in their pleasures. That they've reached a level of maturity whereby they can put on a magnificent show, write a stunning album, without feeling that "indie band" inferiority or suspect that they can't indulge in their passions without being criticised. So they've crafted an album with total commitment but also fun, passion, and performance. I can definitely say it works live but also that it is the most brilliant album I have heard from Muse, one I can't stop listening to, and without a shadow of a lie, an album from which I have woken each morning for about the last six weeks with one of the tracks playing in my head.
I just hope this review does the tracks justice.
***THE 2ND LAW***
With the Bond theme tune that never was - for a short while rumours suggested it would open Skyfall. Dramatic, grandiose and bass-driven, Matt Bellamy soon screams in with brilliant vocals that only he can provide...but first he delivers sultry, seductive Bond-esque lyrics that put Adele's offering to shame. The band get fully into the effort, producing a track that is just so Bond-esque that when I went to see Skyfall I could only hear Supremacy in my head when the theme played. The lyrics - "you don't have long, I am on to you, the time has come to destroy your supremacy" - before the track bursts into dirty bass and percussion - are just purely perfect for the role, and the ending is pure pastiche Bond.
This has become a hugely personal track for me, and was the first single. Supposedly written about Matt Bellamy's realisation that his relationship with Hollywood starlet Kate Hudson, his then-girlfriend (and now mother of his child and possibly even fiancée), was definitely the woman for him, this song is about realising that you are truly in love and how that overcomes all of the superficial aspects of being in a relationship. Stripped down and slow, yet still thoughtful and seductive in its early stages, the song reaches epic proportions as the emotions of the lyrics build. This was used as a teaser for the album and I recall sitting on my porch listening to this be played for the first time to tease the album release - influences of U2 could be called on, as they are later in the album. Taut, stripped down guitar work interrupts the initial lyrics before the grandiose second half of the track, which conveys beautifully with Bellamy's impassioned lyrics the feeling of realisation that a relationship is serious and significant. It starts out as a quirky track but grows into something truly beautiful and I honestly feel this is one of the best songs Muse have ever produced - especially when Bellamy's lyrics soften towards the end. A stunning track.
After the serious note of Madness, the fun!! Stevie Wonder influence abounds in Panic Station. It's a great, funky, fun, choppy and jaunty track and is so indulgent. Bellamy indulges in the quirks in his voice and the band are shown to great effect. This live was amazing, but even on the album it was so much fun. I love to drive to this, with it's brass influence and rock chaos, it's just fun with brilliant execution, the guitar work is flawless and again Bellamy's voice is spot on here. In a dead tie with Madness as my favourite track on this album, this is just hopelessly danceable and brilliant. To listen to this without at least a minor head bop is humanly impossible - fact. Go on, try to prove me wrong.
A piano-driven, orchestral gap takes us to Survival and raises hairs in doing so...
Written as the "official Olympic Song", I didn't think that it worked in that role and I never heard it used in that context during the games either. But taken in the context of this album and when seen live this is a great, epic track. It builds steadily and features Bellamy's lyrics growing in bravery and boldness and becomes a massive song. In between we hear operatics and epic guitars, an almost tribal beat and complete commitment from the band. Taking what Queen did a step further?
The introduction actually features the sound of Matt Bellamy's first son's heartbeat when he was still in the womb. This track also enlists the help of Nero on the production front, and is an epic track that is certainly far more club-friendly than any former efforts. Supportive vocals lead this to being a truly epic track, a departure from previous Muse efforts, and U2 influences in the ending are definitely reminiscent of Bellamy's chance to play Glasntonbury with The Edge.
A more stripped down and subtle approach in this song, there are hints of Santana around the use of guitar. The fact that the noise of city bankers and traders battling is used on the out is significant, indeed this song taps into the entire theme of the album in that there is a dangerous, threatening unsustainability about our society. This is a haunting track that illustrates this really well, perfectly portraying the threat of it through the vocals.
A gentle intro - piano and soft Bellamy crooning - brings this one in. Eventually the build up of the song grows, and Bellamy's vocals are both chilling and haunting. Strings are deployed emotively, and whilst I wouldn't call this stand out track on the album, it is gorgeous to listen to. Rather than bursting into full-on epic song fame, this one is understated and elegant.
The intro shows, in my opinions anyway, massive U2 hints - and before you run and hide, I mean that in a good way! Think Where The Streets Have No Name, not Batman stuff. Taut guitars, pre-naughties rock and great vocals courtesy of Mr Bellamy. Then after the intro the Muse-esque background comes into play and you get a more rounded song - but still with Bellamy doing a great Bono! Personally I love this track, it has components of rock throughout decades and isn't one of their more over-the-top technical modern efforts and shows that they can just do good stripped down old fashioned rock - there's a hint of Queen in the backing vocals to boot. A great instrumental section without kicking off into the high-octane Knights Of Cydonia madness shows a definite confidence and maturity about a band who can play basically whatever they like. Maybe sharing stage time with The Edge really did have an effect.
One of the tracks on this album that are not the art child of Sir Matt of Bellamy - this one comes from Chris Wolstenholme, bassist legend that he be - they are based on his struggles against alcoholism and in a rare treat he takes over the vocals on both tracks. This is a gem - haunting, gentle and involving and gradually enthralling, perfectly conveying the psychology behind his experience whilst also being a stunning, epic track. Live, this was spine-tingling. The idea of hairs standing on end is a lazy refuge for many a writer, but hearing this live was one of the moments in my life when I experienced it. I know the rarity of those moments and Chris, as well as his supporting artists of course but primarily his talent, deserves so many plaudits for his bravery, honesty, creativity and superb songcrafting here.
The darker side of Chris's songwriting here - a tense, dark, heavy and fast-paced rock intro, angry lyrics burst in and the guitars are so terse. But again the revelation is Chris as a vocalist - a superb voice, and having heard these tracks live, this isn't production utilised to indulge a bored band member. This man can sing - we hear enough backing vocals behind Bellamy to know he has the basics, but this and the previous track serve as a revelation. A superb, fast-paced, chaotic description of confusion and hopelessness.
***THE 2ND LAW: UNSUSTAINABLE***
The track that heralded the arrival of a new Muse album and that caused so much concern amongst the faithful for its direction. Incredibly taut strings open with an operatic background. This is Muse going Dubstep - is it a disastrous step or an exciting new move?
A "broadcast" female voice interrupts the song, corrupted by production. Her script explains the reasoning behind the track and therefore the whole album - the human race is an unsustainable race. The second she goes to say the word, the Dubstep influences go sky-high.
This was used as an opener on Muse's O2 gig and it was chilling, spring tingling and ominous all at once - live, this is utterly superb. I wouldn't go for Dubstep myself and this never truly convinced me on the album - although the mastery behind the technical aspect was undeniable - but when I saw this live I had shivers. The drums are basic, violent and tribal and the robotic voice declaring us to be unsustainable is scary as hell with the brilliantly experimental music. It leads into...
***THE 2ND LAW: ISOLATED SYSTEMS***
...which is without doubt the most chilling and enthralling bit of music I have heard since the "In The House In A Heatbeat" track from 28 Weeks Later.
An electronic, tense, tetchy but steady rhythm starts and gradually a base and news report voices join in. The build of tension is fantastic - this would be superb for a disaster movie, with emotive piano work amongst its fabric, and when played live it had its own video of what looked like the remains of society together and running from a threat. It is graceful, it is elegant, but there is an element of threat and danger in it, a superb track with a throbbing bass and awe-warning operatics that just lifts it to being truly superb. One of the highlights of this album for me.
I truly think this is the best thing Muse have ever done. And given how highly I rate their back catalogue, that's going some. Epic, experimental, confident without arrogance, and also embracing great backing musicians and singers to create a truly whole-bodied sound, this album would have been superb even before you add the personal sincerity that comes with Chris's tracks. There's fun here, with one of the best stadium bands in the world happy in their position without being cocky but still able to show their influences on their sleeve and play with the resulting sounds.
This is a superb album, I love every second of it and I play it so often even six months down the line from its release. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who likes Muse tracks but to anyone who loves rock music in any form you might find something truly special for you here. I just hope I have done it justice, thank you for reading.
Summary: A superb coming of age album for the best rock band in the UK (bar the Stones!)