To start off my “Music That Inspires Me” section, I have to open with the new album from Muse. This band has been one of my absolute favorites since I first heard Supermassive Black Hole
on the local alternative station. I immediately devoured as much of their music as I could get my hands on and I loved every bit of it. When their last album, The Resistance, first came out, I was a little skeptical, but the newer sound soon won me over. Now, with the release of The 2nd Law, their shift toward more 80’s sounds–complete with influences ranging from Queen and Bowie to George Michael–is complete, but it’s all performed with that trademark Muse sound.
The 2nd Law
Supremacy 4:55 – A lot of people have said this should have been the theme for the new Bond movie, and without hearing Adele’s version, I agree it could have been a contender. I believe it’s already been used in a trailer (unless that was fan made, in which case, kudos to the person who put it together). It almost sounds like Led Zeppelin was asked to write a Bond theme, then handed it over to Muse to put their own unique spin on it. Either way, it’s a great way to open the album. The opening riff is powerful and the vocals stirring (complete with Matt whipping out the titular line in his gorgeous falsetto and smacking us in the eardrums). 4.5/5
Madness 4:39 – The first single from the new album and the only song I’ve heard on the radio (aside from the aforementioned Supermassive Black Hole). My first reaction was…waaah? Muse does George Michael? My second reaction was…hmm…ummmm….. The next time I heard it was while watching the video with the volume up and it was then that it clicked. Yes, it sounds like a bit of a throwback to George Michael and the 80’s (with a somewhat minimalistic guitar solo that reminds me of Brian May’s work), but it’s done in such a way that embraces technology available at that time. I personally love the backing “M-m-m-m-m-mad” vocals, but what really sold me is the power it achieves as it builds up and releases. It’s become a favorite of mine to sing. 4/5
Panic Station [Explicit] 3:04 – What the funk is this? I don’t know, but I like it. It’s like David Bowie and the Red Hot Chili Peppers got their freak on and this song was the result. It’s a little cheesy, yes, but it’s that particular brand of cheese Muse does so well. It’s also notable for the F-bomb Matt drops. I’ve seen several people point out it’s their first, but I believe that honor belongs to the B-side Crying Shame. While it makes this track NSFW, it’s still a fun, catchy tune that’s funkin’ fantastic! 4/5
Prelude/Survival :57/4:17 – Prelude is just that: an orchestral bit before the main song. I personally wish the two were coupled together as one file, but I realize not everyone shares my view. Survival was the first song released to the public before the album’s release, as it was touted as the official song of the Olympics. Matt embraces his obvious love of Queen and the group steps up and gives us this generation’s We Are The Champions. It’s over the top and epic and I’ve nearly worn out my air guitar rocking out to it. 4/5
Follow Me 3:50 – Some people dislike the so-called “dubstep” influence in this song, but I think it actually enhances it. It’s a sweet little song, but the heavy electronic beat that kicks in gives in that extra little kick that makes it stand apart. 3.5/5
Animals 4:22 – This song sounds like a throwback to older Muse to me. I like the clean, non-distorted guitar line pervading through the song (not that I don’t like some distortion in my songs, but I appreciated the contrast). The lyrics for this one kill me. I love the breakdown at the end (the music, not necessarily the Wall Street trading samples) and wish it lasted a little longer, but I appreciate its added presence. I bet this one is going to rock live. 4/5
Explorers 5:46 – As far as I can tell, this is a sort of lullaby to Matt’s child. I think it sums up who Muse is pretty well, in that it’s a desperate look at where humanity is headed that gives way to optimism for the future. As a parent myself, I felt it embodied my fear of bringing a child into this world with all its evils and horrors, as well as my hope for things to come and the opportunities my child would have. I also give major props to them for throwing “Fuse helium-3” into the lyrics. Only Muse could get away with something like this and make it work. All in all, I think it’s a beautiful song. 3.5/5
Big Freeze 4:39 – The first few times I heard it, this was my least favorite song on the album. It might sound bad, but it’s a little too happy for my tastes. But what I found (and this is often the case with me) is after I was done listening to it, the chorus stuck in my head. Now, I enjoy it well enough, though it’s still not my favorite on the album. However, I have to point out I just listened to this song at work on my lunch and it was difficult to resist singing along. 3/5
Save Me 5:08 – This one and the next is unique because they were written by Chris, the bassist and features him on vocals instead of Matt. I believe this is a first for Muse and has proven to be a bit divisive among fans. I personally don’t mind the fact he’s singing, and given how personal the songs are (detailing his struggles with alcohol), I think it’s appropriate he provided the vocals. That being said, the song has a haunted, ethereal quality I enjoy. 3/5
Liquid State 3:02 – Chris’ second contribution, this song is almost the polar opposite of Save Me. The beat here is driving and pounding and the song as a whole reminds me of old Muse more than the new. I do wish it were a little longer and for some reason, the overall tonal quality sounds a bit muddy to me, but its a good bit of rock. 3.5/5
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable 3:48 – The original promo for the album featured this song and I hoped it would be on the album. It scared a lot of fans, prompting them to think the entire album would be dubstep (it’s not), but I absolutely loved it. I have a soft spot in my heart for orchestration mixed with rock beats and this song does it well. It’s primarily an instrumental, as the only vocals are a woman news reporter intoning about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (see what they did there) and equating it the unsustainability of an economy based on endless growth. It’s pretty heavy stuff, turned even more epically awesome as a robot voice takes over to say, “Unsustainable.” (As my wife put it, “No wonder you like the song. It sounds like a Transformer.”). Cue the so-called dubstep, which is created with live instruments, and you have a song I just can’t get enough of. 4.5/5
The 2nd Law: Isolated System 5:00 – The final track is another instrumental and seems to be the antithesis of the previous song. Where Unsustainable was driving and powerful, this song is subdued, haunting. It sounds like a piece that could easily be part of a movie soundtrack and I must confess to seeing the visual of the accompanying video every time I listen to it. Some have said it seems an odd end to the album, but to me, it’s perfect and seems to embody the notion of decreasing energy. Whether this was their intention or not, it’s a suitable climax to the album and a very listenable track on its own. Great to write to. 4/5
As a whole, I would give this album a 4/5. It’s not my favorite Muse album (I believe that would be Black Holes And Revelations, my first Muse experience), but I think it’s a step in the right direction. If this is your first experience with Muse, go into knowing this album isn’t indicative of their past catalogue. Instead, it embodies the summation of their music as a whole, unifying their old and new sound. Also, I highly recommend listening with headphones on. There’s a whole world of sonic soundscapes contained in each song you may miss otherwise.