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Muse - The 2nd Law

Criticized for being too indulgent and too ambitious, Muse respond the only way they know how, with an even more expansive new album.

Monday, 10. December 2012  -  by  David Hayter

Muse finally went off the rails in 2009 when they checked self-restraint at the studio door, ditching producer Rich Costley, and unleashing The Resistance: a bloated self-indulgent LP salvaged by a few stunning stadium sized cuts. A preposterously brazen anthem (“Neutron Star Collision (Love Is Forever)”) produced for the Twilight Eclipse Soundtrack followed doing little to allay fans’ fears before The London 2012 Olympic Anthem “Survival” confirmed our worst suspicions – Matt Bellamy, Dominic Howard & Chris Wolstenholme had lost the plot.

Not ones to back down, Matt Bellamy sprang to the defence of his band’s boundary pushing m.o: “we like pushing it as far as we can”. As a result, The 2nd Law is set to be Muse’s most ridiculous and ambitious album to date - and it’s all the better for it. While the unrestrained Muse of 2009 produced tiresome strains of “United States Of Eurasia” and the “Exogensis” suite, the modern Muse are less po-faced, embracing new sounds and influences with gleeful abandon.

Rather than stretching their sound to the limits of listen-ability, they instead play mix and match. Grabbing a dollop of Dub-Step umph here, a slab of U2’s stadium sized intimacy there, and rounding it off with a blast of jubilant trumpet, adeptly blending them all into the classic Muse sound. The fear that Muse would go “brostep” and “dumb down” were unwarranted, they employ some suitably deep bass wobbles, but they’re used to support the transient, but wholly enjoyable, mosher “Unsustainable” and to back Bellamy up on the understated single “Madness”. Instead the biggest influences on The 2nd Law are the predictable trio of Queen, U2 and Radiohead.

Wearing their pomposity like a badge of honour the album makes practically every ridiculous idea work. Combine a slamming walking funk bassline and a horn section right out of Stevie Wonder’s playbook with Abolition period guitar work and a vocal that floats between Freddie and MJ? Why the hell not. “Panic Station” might be the most outrageously enjoyable offspring of the band’s new approach, but the old post-Radiohead Muse still offer some striking thrills. “Follow Me” is a slow building arena filling sing-along, and the beautifully understated playing of “Animals” should satiate the long-term Muse fans who despair at the band’s current direction of travel. “Big Freeze” recalls Bono and The Edge at their late-80s height, and is frankly more exciting than anything U2 have released in at least a decade.

It’s not all plain sailing. Album opener “Supremacy” is so ham-fisted it feels more like an expert parody of the band’s excess and political grandstanding than an actual Muse track. The “Kashmir” sized riff can only do so much to cover up an opening line as unintentionally laughable as “wake to see your true emancipation is fantasy”. In other moments the band’s smash and grab approach to influences fails to transcend pastiche on the Elbow and Radiohead-aping efforts “Save Me” and “Explorers”. Thankfully, these missteps cannot sink an absolute riot of an album. Less indulgent, more demented, Muse are in adventurous mood embracing every whacky idea and inspiring influence to create an album that should thrill, however improbably, fans both new and old.

Buy If:You want to see a stadium sized band reject streamlining and embrace every whacky idea that comes into their heads.

Skip If:You were expecting 40-minutes of post-apocalyptic rock.

Best Track:“Panic Station”

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