Muse - The 2nd Law
Muse have come a long way since 'Muscle Museum' seemed to take over MTV2 and XFM, shrugging off the constant digs that they were trying too hard to be Radiohead. Heading down the road of monumental riffs – is there one better from last decade than 'New Born'? – these in turn were swamped by some ludicrously over-the-top orchestrations and equally bombastic live shows that proved the band always wanted bigger and better, and that resting on their (rather large) laurels was never an option.
Having become the biggest stadium rock band around, where do Muse go from there? The 2nd Law is predictably different - step one being to bring in some new and leftfield influences, in this case a large dollop of the new fad: dubstep. Sporadically dotted throughout the album, these "whop-whop" basslines are certainly a changeup, but add little, seemingly included just for the sake of doing something unexpected.
Imitation is supposedly the greatest form of flattery, in which case The 2nd Law is one big love letter from Muse to those from whom they have taken up the flame, namely Queen and U2. Lead single 'Madness' is so close to the former's 'I Want To Break Free' that copyright lawyers must be having a good listen, whilst the likes of 'Big Freeze' are wistful reminisces of the Irish quartet at their pompous best – without ever being anything like as authentic or meaningful. The list goes on, as 'Panic Station' mirrors Bowie, and 'Isolated System' could pass for an off-colour Mike Oldfield number.
But those delicious slabs of a young, rocking Matt Bellamy are not entirely forgotten; opener 'Supremacy' has an edge and a bite that has been lacking from most of their more recent offerings, and sadly from much of The 2nd Law too. 'Liquid State' is the undoubted highlight with its galloping rhythm and menacing streak, but the fact that this is bassist Christopher Wolstenholme’s baby speaks volumes about the creative malaise into which Bellamy has sunk.
The 2nd Law is Muse plus dubstep plus sycophantic homage, which in truth equals a slightly disjointed and derivative record, one delivered with their typical polish and panache but with little substance. Once again the band lack for any sort of consistency in both sound and quality, leaving this to be "just another Muse album", and not a particularly good one at that.