Well, thanks to my brother in Germany, I’ve got a copy of the new Muse album, The 2nd Law, early. I’ve pre-ordered a copy too, so I’m not a naughty music pirate person.
I’ve now heard the album a few times through, and it’s already a winner.
These guys are so far ahead of any popular band in recent years in every way. They write more adventurous songs with adventurous chord/key changes, great melodies, and vocal lines which switch easily between Bellamy’s natural and falsetto voice.
On The 2nd Law, there are the lovely classical influences as ever, with nods to various artists of the past and nice use of orchestral strings and choirs throughout the album too, with the addition of very modern influences in just the right amount.
So, in terms of a track run-down…
Supremacy – A nod to Zeppelin’s Kashmir (that song has been borrowed now by so many bands) with elements of Yes (I’m thinking ‘Homeworld’). The Bond theme makes a little entrance and the end chord is very ‘Bond-esque’. Song switches between the Kashmir section to a nice part of strings with snare and choral backing. A nice little guitar solo, which could have come from the Queen album Innuendo. In fact, the overall song is very Innuendo.
Madness – Saw the band play this on Jools Holland’s show. Nice use of the Status Kitara Doubleneck Bass on this track, giving a nice synth edge to the bass.
Panic Station – Slap/Pop-tastic! Naughty word alert! Funky guitar over some nice bass playing. Got a very ’80s feel to it.
Prelude – Like a mid ’70s ELO track – Bellamy’s Chopin-esque playing over a string section. Instrumental and short.
Survival – Probably known to many already through its use in the Olympics. Nice, operatic backing vocals over a relentless, menacing song.
Follow Me – Lonely vocal over strings, joined by an arpeggiated keyboard line. Turns into something which sounds like it could be U2, albeit with the kind of classical chord sequences associated with Muse. Then we go all Dubstep after a couple of minutes – lots of ‘zooby’ bass, another verse, and more Dubsteppy stuff.
Animals – My personal fave so far. In 5/4 – Electric piano with nice drum beat joined by lovely, clean electric guitar and great chord changes – not at all predictable, other than the standard Muse classical resolving chord sequences, which are of course their ‘trademark’. There’s a lovely section at 2:42 of 3 bars of 5/4, followed by a bar of 6/4 (or a single bar of 21/4, if you prefer) which repeats twice, then at 3:36, the instruments except the drums continue in 5/4 while the drums play a counter-rhythmic 4/4 – great track! Will keep me interested for quite a while.
Explorers – Prizes for those who manage to avoid hearing part of the verse melody from ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’. Gentle, broken piano chords with solitary Bellamy vocal. Builds into a different chord sequence over cellos, and then the drums come in for the next verse. Ends with gentle piano chords again and a bit of chimes, with a lullaby finish.. Nice enough song.
Big Freeze – Another one with a slight ’80s feel to it. Snare stick over Jan Hammer-esque intro. Second verse features full drums and funky guitar. Nice, satisfying, heavy bass in the choruses.
Save Me – Interesting. A song in 6/8. First listen confronts you with a different voice. Sure enough, the lead vocals are taken by bass player, Wolstenholme. Really nice feel to the song. A beautiful melody sung over clean guitar and keyboard pads/strings. Chords kind of evoke Bond incidental music somehow. Drums join in with a 4/4 feel over the 6/8. At 3:41, there’s a nice shift in the drums to a half-time feel 6/8. Great little run out at the end.
Liquid State – The second of two songs on the album where Wolstenholme takes the lead vocal role. The vocals are nicely affected. Quite an urgent beat, which breaks down into half time feel for the choruses.
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable – Nice music. The second of three instrumentals on the album – well, it’s kind of semi-instrumental. Again, elements of ELO – that big string section with operatic choral singing. Then a woman with a bad electro-stammer lectures us about the unsustainability of our lifestyles. Vocoders make an appearance. The tune is like a collaboration between ELO and Jean-Michel Jarre (in late ’80s ‘Revolutions’ period), with a guest appearance by Tight Fit on Vocoder in the chorus and Uncle Dubstep has poked his head around the corner again. Might sound like I’m taking the mickey – I actually really like the tune! 🙂
The 2nd Law: Unsustainable – Bit of a dance feel to this one, but not in a bad way – more ambient, I’d say. More snippets of various sustainability-related samples. Oh, and apparently, in an isolated system, entropy can only increase.
I’m not a lyrics person, so someone else can review that aspect of the music – to me, the vocals are just another instrument.
Muse had a tricky task following up their Resistance album (the finest album in years for me), but they’ve done a great job. Instead of going more epic and even more Proggy, they’ve concentrated on delivering well-crafted, solid music – as usual, brilliantly executed.