Muse has never been a band to shy away from controversial opinions. If this was not apparent with Absolution, Black Holes and Revelations, or The Resistance, then the listener is missing some critical elements of Muse’s typical message. To be fair, Muse also touches on romance/personal connections. I heard that they were releasing a new album back in January of this year, so one can imagine my anticipation. Follow me to learn more about the new album The 2nd Law.
“Madness” was released as a single over a month ago; it serves as a nice taste of things to come. It was a cyclical song with predictable rock/techno themes. After the lackluster album The Resistance from three years ago, I thought that “Madness” was the sign that Muse had found their voice, even if that voice was far less complicated that their hit-ridden albums Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations. This was apparently not a sign of things to come, but an outlier.
The 2nd Law is terrible. Terrible in a way that made Metallica’s St. Anger a terrible album. This album has no soul; no over-arching, connected message. What made Muse so good was the proper blend of basic and intermediate elements/styles of rock with a modicum of techno. That music was complemented with lyrics that had its roots in matters that everyone could connect to: feelings of helplessness, feeling weak in the clutches of a ‘big brother’ government, feelings of resentment, and feelings of control.
The 2nd Law certainly has elements of prior albums. “Follow Me” has its roots in “Assassin,” but lacks the semi-subtle messaging that made the latter so great. “Survival” (played at the London Olympic games) and “Panic Station” sadly have elements to “United States of Eurasia,” lacking the latter’s punch…which is sad considering “United States” did not have punch to begin with. “Liquid State” sounds like it arrived from the worst part of a rejected Nickelback song.
The truly worst sin on this album are the last two songs, both sharing names with the album. “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” and “The 2nd Law: Isolated System” are atrocious in a way that would make other bands irrelevant. The former is a preachy anti-government, dubstep-inspired, loathsome monstrosity that attempts a decent beat. This beat cannot be heard over the trashcan-sounding voice that beats the word ‘unsustainable’ into your ears like a Latin lesson gone wrong. “Isolated System” is techno at its absolute cliché: a ‘wub’ sound repeated ad nauseum, with a phrase that keeps repeating also. “Isolated System” closes with a 20-second fade out…6 of that is dead air.
I had this album listed in my Muse playlist. I thought I was hearing a good song when I realized it was “Map of the Problematique” from another album playing. Turns out, the “The 2nd Law” part of my playlist ended, and the randomized part began.
There are two good songs on this album. Wait. “Album” is too kind of a word for this collection of songs. I will now invent a word: dretch. “Dretch” is an noun meaning ‘a collection of songs intended to be compiled into an album but sound so terrible as to be unbearable sound-wise.’ With that out of the way, I can now be more accurate.
There are two good songs on this dretch. “Madness,” which was mentioned earlier, and “Supremacy.” This title like everything else on this album gives nods to the albums before it. It opens like “Apocalypse Please” and has nice sexy hooks like “Time is Running Out.” Matthew Bellamy shows most of his singing range on this album in this one song, but for the brief moment he does, it sounds like “Black Holes and Revelations.”
This dretch leaves much to be desired. Muse is a band that had a lot of promise and after The Resistance and The 2nd Law, it appears that they are lost in their own message of anti-politics, anti-borders, and semi-anarchy (it feels more like anarchy-lite). A band that was once considered a musical underdog that valued its credibility and intelligent songplay has devolved into a marginalized far-leftist malcontent. The sound given off is best left for the DJs and dubstep artists on the internet to mix into other songs that will hopefully sound somewhat better. I expect more from Muse than this. As a result, I personally will not be going to any of their concerts in fear that tracks from The 2nd Law will appear in the setlist.
FINAL GRADE: D-
TRR Music Revue by Geoff Beebe
EDIT: 10 October 2012: A reader rightly informed me that there is no musical sound in this world that is worse than Justin Beiber (whose name is also too similar-sounding to my own for my personal comfort). In light of this, The 2nd Law‘s score was upgraded from “F” to “D-.”