MUSE; THE 2ND LAW
Bombastic fantastic. Diverse perfection from the Devonshire gods.
The 2nd Law is Muse's 6th studio album, and shows just how far they have come since their first album Showbiz, more than a decade ago, from angsty teenagers to a band that have played a huge part in the evolution of modern prog rock.
The most striking thing about The 2nd Law is the way it merges together different styles of music, with a distinctive Muse spin, through the distinctive vocals (in particular the falsettos) of Matt Bellamy and the strength of the guitar, bass and drums in differing combinations. For example, opener Supremacy wouldn't be out of place in a Bond film with a healthy dose of dramatic strings alongside a huge riff, while next track Madness takes a sexy electronic detour with a naughty-bits-a-quiver synth bassline and wonderfully emotion-filled vocals. Candidate for best song on the album is Panic Station, the main port in Funk City – there a awful lot of groove going on here. (Non-disco) slappa-da-bass, trumpets, crazy guitar and a generally punchy rhythm that asks you to shake dat ass. Then there's the bombastic brilliance of Survival, a suitably rousing and over-the-top Olympic theme song, before diving into a Nero-produced beautiful maelstrom of swirling synths and bass drops (no dubstep here) in Follow Me, which feels like the most personal track on T2L – it contains a sample of the foetal heartbeat of Bellamy's son Bing as a base rhythm.
Animals is a concoction of melody with a fairly large riff; it remains almost haunting for a lot of the song, before picking up at the end, yet without becoming...raucous (I feel like a grumpy old man, writing the word 'raucous'), while Explorers is a quite beautiful piano-led quasi-ballad and Big Freeze is almost pop like in it's upbeat echoing guitar and bouncy drums. Then, the most interesting part of the album unfolds; the two tracks in which bassist and backing vocalist Chris Wolstenholme takes over on lead vocals for the first time on a studio album. Chronicling Wolstenholme's long, yet ultimately successful, battle with alcoholism, Save Me is deeply personal and rather lovely, showcasing a truly beautiful voice with matching, twinkling guitar work. Liquid State is also very personal, but by contrast is awarded Best Riff – the opening bass is classic Muse, and it is a different style of song to Save Me insomuch as it's much heavier - but both do Wolstenholme proud.
And then, to finish, we have the almost-instrumental almost-dubstep of Unsustainable, though done entirely on guitars. Backed by a driving strings rhythm, it's a fantastic moment when the 'drop' comes in, and the middle section, with squeaky guitar, powerful bass/drums and the strings once again, makes for one of the band's best compositions ever. Then, the very final track Isolated System carries a haunting guitar/piano harmony through subtle electronic beats to bring a close to an incredibly diverse and overall excellent album.
It really is a remarkable feat, what Muse have achieved. Several years in the making, musically perfect throughout and so well balanced; it is superb. It's not decided yet, but given how this has surpassed my expectations, will be in the running for the best album of 2012.