“Muse go dubstep!?!” frothed the internet after the trailer for The 2nd Law was released in June, featuring a whoomp-laden snippet of The 2nd Law: Unsustainable, one half of this fifth album’s closing mini opera, made up of Skrillex sonics, Tubular Bells atmospherics and news snippets about global environmental disasters.
Muse: The 2nd Law
A (dub)step in the right direction with album No.5.
What the trolls forgot is that Muse have always been intrepid envelope pushers, and this was them dipping their toe into cutting-edge new waters as part of an album hell-bent on testing out every possible new dimension.
The album’s theme is classic Muse – the depletion of the planet’s energy resources, the shitty time we’re going to have as a result (wars, famine, economic desperation, general species-wide unpleasantness) and humanity’s triumph in inevitably pulling through. But within this frame, Muse tirelessly re-invent, pushing their operatic leanings to the extremes of Roman galleon slave chants, military battle drums and Brunhilde bombast on Survival and Supremacy.
They also try out 80s pop frivolities: I Want To Break Free solos, Let’s Dance sizzle-beats, Suicide Blonde funk rock and Sledgehammer synths on Madness and Panic Station. You’ll pick up hints of Tinie Tempah, jazz metal, 80s Genesis and George Michael’s Faith. Cohesion be damned – Muse are alchemising.
Bassist Chris Wolsthenholme even writes and sings two tracks inspired by his fight against alcoholism – Liquid State and Save Me. The lack of Matt Bellamy’s histrionic warbles here seems to mute Muse, but it proves them to be a band with no fixed limits or methods, and The 2nd Law finds them mid-evolutionary leap.
If they’re soon transformed into some new species of dub-rock behemoth, it’ll be a spectacular specimen.