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ALBUM: MUSE – The 2nd Law (First Listen)

MUSE has long been regarded as one of my favorite bands and, much like fellow enth-MUSE-iasts (bad pun, I know), I was worried about the quality of their upcoming sixth album: The 2nd Law. Coming out tomorrow in select European countries and everywhere else the beginning of October, I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on it so I decided to listen to one of the leaks of the album and write my initial thoughts on a track-by-track basis to share, much like what I did for Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero years back.

1. Supremacy
Decent start so far. Maybe a little too heavy on the strings but that’s just kind of how MUSE is these days, what with the whole Rock Opera they attempt (and sometimes succeed) at creating. The build up right before the chorus line is pretty badass and the bass/guitar kick in that we know and love is representing. I feel it would be a much more effective track had it been stripped down a little more bare without so many background production gimmicks. Then again, MUSE have never been that great at picking their intro songs.

2. Madness
I think enough people who care about MUSE have likely heard this song already due to it being one of the early album leaks(releases?). In context of the album it fits a lot better than I thought it would. I couldn’t really stand the song the first time I heard it standalone but as of my typing this right now am really enjoying it. Once you get passed how silly the “ma-ma-ma-ma-mad-mad-madness” background is, it’s really just an enjoyable track.

3. Panic Station
Holy Michael Jackson callbacks! Not necessarily a bad way to start a song but just sound sort of strange coming from MUSE and will likely get some hate. Either way, the Motown inspired funky bass line and disco feel of the chorus is still enough to get me bobbing my head.

4. Prelude
Kind of what you expect if I were to say “MUSE instrumental track”.

5. Survival
The London 2012 Olympics song that first had me somewhat nervous about the direction MUSE would be taking. A hint of Queen that MUSE has always kind of had in their more recent music becomes overtly obvious which, for better or worse, has actually grown on me quite a bit. It’s still a rather strange choice for the Olympics, maybe but listening to it now within the intended album setting feels like a natural step in the progression.

6. Follow Me
Starts off innocently enough and then, dubstep. Don’t let this be a deterrent, however! This is one of the first times I can probably unironically state that the dubstep is more than welcome. By downplaying the ‘wubs’ as just part of the background music instead of being the center of attention, there is a pretty pleasing balance of wobble and traditional rock riffs. One of my favorites of the album so far.

7. Animals
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this song as it’s what any MUSE fan would assume would be on this album; the slower rock ballad with the guitar build up in the breakdown and chorus. “MUSE 101” stuff to be quite honest and although I love that they have a song those of us will recognize as standard… to be quite hypocritical, I wish they had stayed trying the new stuff they’ve been working with up to this point. Kind of a cool-down from where I felt the album was going so far.

8. Explorers
If MUSE were to write you a personal lullabye, I have a feeling it would sound a lot like this. It would be hard to not just compare this closely to a Radiohead track (specifically No Surprises) so we’ll just go with that. Not bad, just continues to kill the high the album started me off on in tandem with the previous track.

9. Big Freeze
Okay, we’re off to a great start with this rather upbeat guitar/bass line. Things are starting to look up from the previous stagnant two tracks. Catchy instrumentation that feels somewhat let down by the vocal stylizations Bellamy decided to go with. Nothing special with the sound of the vocals doesn’t stop this from being a relatively decent pick, however, and is saved by the very Ween-ish feel of the guitar.

10. Save Me
*snore*WHOA WHAT THE HELL? THERE’S A SONG HERE? Very tepid beginning with a very slow build up that doesn’t exactly meet up to the crescendo I might’ve been hoping for. Another slow track. Kind of nice hearing Chris Wolstenholme taking up the vocals though.

11. Liquid State
Holy crap! Chris is lead vocals on ANOTHER song and MUSE still know how to write regular rock riffs! Sure, it may sound like something the Foo Fighters might write in terms of a main guitar riff but that doesn’t stop this track from being pretty stand-out. Whether it be from the relaxed and somewhat boring track preceding it or just due to how rare it is to hear an honest-to-god, stripped-bare regular rock sound from MUSE these days, this song definitely makes an impression.

12. The 2nd Law: Unsustainable
Here we go! The song that put worry in my heart as it was what was used to advertise the release of the new album; that’s right, the dubstep song with full orchestral sound, news reporter and heavy drops with a machine spouting “UNSUSTAIN-UNSUSTAIN-ABLE”. I have to say that I’ve become accustomed to the sound now since those initial YouTube videos advertising this album came out months ago so I’m somewhat left unphased by it. I still don’t particularly like it… but there are a few decent things in it I guess.

13. The 2nd Law: Isolated System
All instrumentation and sound clips put together very nicely in a calm way to end the craziness that the album was. Reminds me a lot of how Nine Inch Nails ended their album Year Zero, which is nothing but a great thing. Kind of retrospective ending, in a sense and a nice companion to the Transformer sex that the previous song was.