A few days ago, I wrote a review of the new album by Muse, entitled "The 2nd Law" and cited it as a wholly original and fantastic piece of work, going on to rate it as a 9.0/10.0. Let me just come right out and say it: that score was much too high. This is why:
1. It's not nearly as original as I said it was:
I'm sorry! I lied! "Panic Station" is so derivative of early Red Hot Chili Peppers and I just can't stand it! And both "Follow Me" and "Big Freeze" almost completely lift out melodies from U2 songs. "Animals" is like old Muse. only more boring, and "Liquid State" is head-thumping pseudo-metal straight out of the Foo Fighters textbook. My declarations of originality came primarily from the final two tracks, "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable" and "The 2nd Law: Isolated System" which truly are a tour de force of genre-mixing. As for the preceding tracks, few succeed as original pieces.
2. The dance music deprives some songs of their very souls:
Despite its cheesy lyrics, "Follow Me" was a surprisingly sentimental song sung by Matt Bellamy to his newborn son, Bingham; even if you don't particularly enjoy the song, you can help but be awed by the notion. Enter Nero's dance track production. With a David Guetta-esque thumping entering the song after about a minute or so of basic rock tune, every bit of beauty that was left in the song exits stage left. Essentially what Muse has done here is turned an emotional and exposed song into yet another canvas for mindless experimentation. Does it sound good with the bass turned up? Yes, but that isn't the point. Ask a dozen people what they remember most about "Follow Me" and every single one of them will say "the drop". Ask those same people what the song is actually about and few could tell you. Experimentation is all well and good UNTIL it robs the very essence of the song right out from under its feet.
3. It has zero sequencing:
"Supremacy" is a decent opening song (though "The 2nd Law: Unsustainble" or, oh I dunno, "Prelude" might have been a better choice), but from there on out, this album is thrown together in such a scatter-shot manner as to completely disorient the listener. The funky "Panic Station" directly following the minimalistic semi-dance track "Madness"? And putting the hopeful "Save Me" before the depressing and dark "Liquid State"? The message there seems to be that you can hope to be free from your burdens, but in the end, they'll always come back to haunt you. For shame, Muse, for shame. And don't even get me started on putting a song called "Prelude" in the middle of an album. The sequencing is simply disastrous.
4. Those lyrics:
They're awful. The only shining light is Chris Wolstenholme's "Save Me", a hopeful and meditative song about being rid of alcoholism that strikes a surprising chord in my heart. But look at "Survival": "Life's a race and I'm gonna win. Yes I'm gonna win." with chants of "So I Told You" in the background. It's like "We Are the Champions" took hard drugs for a couple decades and spat itself back out. Elsewhere we find the 5th grade poetry of "Follow Me", the overly-dramatic "Supremacy", and the dreadfully vague "Explorers" among others. I know lyrics have never been Muse's strong suit, but at least "Knights of Cydonia" thrived on its sheer weirdness. These songs sound like they're trying to be serious, and that is where the problem lies.
The Good News!
These songs, when taken on their own are highly entertaining, and you can't go wrong with a healthy dose of bombast in your musical diet (which Muse satisfies fabulously). "The 2nd Law: Isolated System" still functions as a gorgeous closing number and "Supremacy"'s guitar riff still bashes your head in (in a good way) And, all things considered, most of these issues can be overlooked when you take "The 2nd Law" for the fun piece of theatrical rock and roll that it should be.
The reevaluated score is: 7.0/10