When I heard “Survival” — the first single on Muse’s “The 2nd Law” — released as the official London 2012 Olympics song, I was optimistic. It sounded like an aggressive Queen song with some particularly epic solos, and it was really fun to listen to. Sure, it was bombastic and over-the-top, but it worked.
“Survival” turned out to be the exception, not the rule, on the new album.
The band’s sixth studio album is all over the place. It starts out in typical Muse fashion with a mildly upbeat rocker, “Supremacy.” Nothing special, but something that we’ve all come to expect from the band.
From there, things start to get weird. And not good-weird, like that slightly off-kilter uncle who snuck you a beer now and then when you were younger. Weird-weird, like the distant relative who you don’t invite to Thanksgiving because he only talks about his pet rat and wears tinfoil on his head.
The second song and single off the album, “Madness,” is annoyingly repetitive, creepily bizarre, and achingly boring. It employs far too much electronic editing and not enough traditional rock music. The album almost gets back on the wagon with the catchy third single “Panic Station,” followed by the aforementioned “Survival.”
But just as the album starts to pick up some steam in a good direction, we get sideswiped by the dubstep-infused “Follow Me.” While not as horrendous as the group’s other foray into the electronic fad-genre — don’t worry, I’ll get there — “Follow Me” is no gem. Throughout this album, Muse tried out too many different styles, and as a result the songs go together about as well as athletes and acting careers.
There is only one more good song on “The 2nd Law”: “Animals.” Probably the strongest track off this disarray of an album, “Animals” grips you with complex guitar-work throughout before ending with the sounds of a riot.
And then comes the creeping implosion.
It starts off with "Explorers," An utterly forgettable downtempo song. Then comes “Big Freeze,” which plays like a mediocre U2 B-side, followed by ""Save Me," a sub-par ballad whose only upside is an interesting solo. "Liquid State," a bewilderingly out-of-place mainstream rock piece, concludes this jarring downward spiral.
There was no way I could have anticipated how bad the next track was.
“The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” is complete with a robot growling the word “unsustainable” backed by a riff that sounds like a guitar being sadistically tortured. It’s the hideous offspring of Muse and brostep (for those who don’t know, brostep is the louder and more obnoxious cousin of dubstep).
The urgent violins give the impression that the song could be building to something epic, but the robot and arduous guitar come in by a minute and a half, making it clear nothing could save this train wreck.
I don’t know what Muse was trying to accomplish on this one, but unless their goal was to make my ears bleed, they failed miserably.
At least the final song on the album was quiet enough that it didn’t make my newly acquired headache any worse.
The verdict: Too much ill-advised experimentation leads to an awkward and
Reach reporter Nathan Taft at email@example.com. Twitter: @NathanTaft
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