Muse’s New Album, The 2nd Law

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.

Tutu You

So, the grinning, unelected, believer in invisible friends, Archbishop Desmond Tutu is calling for the trial of Blair and Bush for war crimes. The man who encourages dialogue between adversaries pulls out of merely sharing a platform with someone with whom he disagrees. A tad hypocritical, perhaps?

I’m sorry that the many enquiries, sorry, ‘white-washes’ have failed to support your point of view, Tutu.

OK, let’s bring it on, Mr Pacifist. Let’s put them on trial for illegal humanitarian intervention in Somalia, Rwanda, and of course Bosnia too, where, in the latter case, the UN showed its emasculation through non-intervention in the worst European mass-murder since World War 2. In fact, when we’re done with Bush and Blair, let’s put the UN on trial. What’s that? The UN is immune from prosecution? Oh.

Forget the dodgy dossier – intervention in Iraq was absolutely valid and legal on the basis that Saddam had consistently broken terms of the Desert Storm cease fire. As soon as he broke those terms, we were absolutely justified in intervening. No other justification required.

In hindsight, Bush and Blair’s biggest mistake was trying to build an international consensus in the face of veto threats from the three countries with highest oil and arms contracts in Iraq – China, Russia, and France. Everyone seems to forget that the ‘diplomatic’ route was exhausted when these countries absolutely ruled out any further diplomatic route by pre-emptively declaring their veto.

Happily embracing Godwin’s Law, I can easily make historic parallels where pacifism or appeasement has had catastrophic outcomes. Those who espouse such ahistorical views are the ones who need to be in the dock: not those who have learnt from history. I don’t align myself politically with Blair or Bush, but I don’t believe in political dogma anyway, so I have no problem in declaring that they absolutely did the right thing in intervening in Iraq – the one criticism I could level is that intervention didn’t happen after the first contravention of the original cease-fire. Let the opponents of intervention justify the hundreds of thousands of deaths for which they bear the moral burden. You see, we can all take the moral high-ground.

Once we’re done with the trial, how about we leave the UN to its own devices and pacification of the many Islamic states which are categorically in contravention of its membership requirements. I’m sure it will get along just fine without the combined 28% funding from the USA and UK. There will probably be a significant number of other countries which would happily set up a new alternative to the UN in terms of membership requiring genuine respect of human rights, including the right to freedom of and from religion, free speech (that’s real free speech, including the right to offend on any basis), and universal suffrage.

Before we can get there though, any trial of Blush would of course require evidence, because, Archbish, courts in the real world work on the basis of evidence. Tell me, on what evidence are your beliefs based? What’s that? A two thousand year old book of contradictions which recycle old creation and messianic myths? Quality.

I liked Tutu better when he was that Russian fake lesbian act.