Entropy Increases on Muse’s New Album The 2nd Law
Muse typically loves to address the insanity of the world while also making clear political statements. The 2nd Law, their newest album released on Oct. 2, proves to be no different; the title is meant to reveal how our way of life is becoming increasingly unsustainable.
It’s easy to forgive the heavy-handed message here, since Muse has never been a band that relied on subtlety. This is highly evident in a track such as the album opener “Supremacy.” The song begins with strings and brass instruments complementing hard drum and bass lines to set the pace for the album in a highly bombastic and forceful way. “Survival,” which was the theme song for the Summer Olympics, has operatic backing vocals to complement lead singer Matthew Bellamy’s thunderous but simplistic lyrics about the human race. “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable,” one of two songs that share the album’s title, was featured in a trailer for the album over the summer that made many critics and fans apprehensive, given that it teased the band taking on a full dubstep style that might potentially turn some hardcore fans off from their sound. However, this new sound actually works because, in the opinion of this writer, dubstep pretty succinctly expresses a system of increasing entropy.
Despite these differences, The 2nd Law also bears many similarities to the band’s earlier work, and the album is actually most interesting when it attempts to reconcile the old with the new. The first official non-Olympics related single, “Madness,” is an excellent example of this. Being very similar to some of the slow driving songs from their first album, Showbiz, the song achieves that effect mostly through the use of electronic instrumentation. “Follow Me” and “Explorers” both operate in an extremely similar manner.
Additionally, there is an exciting new funk influence on this album that is worth taking note of. “Panic Station” features musicians who played on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” and it clearly shows; the song is a funky foot-tapping attempt to break new ground, and it succeeds with flying colors.
One very interesting touch on The 2nd Law is the presence of two songs written and sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme. Wolstenholme has provided backup vocals throughout the band’s career and has fully capable pipes that make for a good change of pace. “Save Me” and “Liquid State,” which were written about the bassist’s struggles with alcoholism and the chaos of his own world, still relate to the overall structure of the album despite their personal subject matter.
Overall, The 2nd Law is a solid effort that is definitely worth a listen for its seriousness and/or for its potential as pump-up party music. The message about our unsustainable world doesn’t reveal anything earth-shattering or enlighten the listener in a significant way, but the album is more than enjoyable enough to compensate for its lack of depth. It could easily be argued that this loud and chaotic world needs an equally loud and chaotic soundtrack, and The 2nd Law provides just that.