Six albums in, English trio Muse can pretty much do anything they want. If they want to make a futuristic opera, they can. If they want to make an arena rock album mixed with a laser light show, they can. If they want to make a rock album mixed with the blistering sounds of dubstep, they can. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. Take, for instance, Muse’s latest album The 2nd Law, which tries to stray out in the realms of electronic music while remaining relatively close to a typical Muse sound.
The opener “Supremacy” follows the typical Muse formula, a tad bit of overdramatics that is pushed out by the great vocal performance of Matthew Bellamy. “Animals” features some Santana-esque guitar playing throughout, almost putting me in a trance-like state towards the middle of the piece. “Panic Station” has an old school beat driving this jam, making it feel like an electro-Queen throwback.
Not everything on here is good. In fact, a lot of this felt like bland rock music. The first two singles especially feel like Muse at their worst. “Madness” is really lacking in substance, making for a boring and tedious single. “Survival,” which was the song Muse put out for the Olympics, was a mess when it first was put out, and a mess now, with too many elements thrown into a pot with no real direction besides forward. “Explorers” is the first ballad on The 2nd Law, and until the drums kick in towards the middle, it feels like Disney would make it and place it in an animated adventure.
And then there is the dubstep aspects to this album. And for what has been hyped as their “EDM album,” it only really comes out on two songs. The first is the Nero-produced “Follow Me,” where the dubstep aspect only comes up during the chorus. That sound they are using feels gimmicky, almost as bad (if not on par) as that Alex Clare song “Too Close.” One of the two title tracks “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” is filled with dubstep sounding guitars, which makes that track a rather unique listening experience. The problem is that it is the only thing interesting about the track. There is no vocal performance by Bellamy here (besides his trademark yell), and is held together by a news broadcast. That broadcast also continues in “The 2nd Law: Isolated System,” but that lacks anything engrossing for a closer.
The biggest problem I found with The 2nd Law is that it was not made for a contained listen. Muse is known for their extravagant laser light shows and giant concerts, filled with fans ready to dance and party. I can see them dancing around to some of the songs on this album, but only in a live capacity. As it is mixed and performed on disc, it’s pretty bland, lacking in a real push to be great, let alone good. The closest thing I can get to their live experience is turning on my iTunes visualizer and projecting that on a wall, but even then it doesn’t make the album any better.
The 2nd Law isn’t bad, but it isn’t anywhere close to being good. Muse has their moments, but they played this album relatively safe – even with the electronics on the album. If they really wanted to make an album with dubstep tendencies, than the whole album should have tried to incorporate it. Instead, we get a run of the mill Muse album that doesn’t make me any bigger of a fan.
Final Grade: C
Go Download: “Panic Station”