For English rockers Muse, the approach to their sixth studio album was one of letting go of expectations. The 2nd Law, recorded with few constrictions at Air in London, follows on the heels of a world tour and really could be christened The Kitchen Sink.
The Devon-born band has come a long way since the Gothic Plague/Fixed Penalty/Rocket Baby Dolls days, of course, and The 2nd Law perhaps is their bravest step forward yet. Because its relatively frisky spirit, the record has a looser feel overall and the band’s lack of restraint has a place to park.
“There’s an eccentricity to the album which makes it fun,” says frontman Matthew Bellamy. “I don’t think it’s taking itself too seriously even though some of the lyrics are…I’d go so far as to say we had a bit of a laugh making this album…The spirits were up, more so than on any previous Muse album, that’s for sure.”
That the first track, “Supremacy,” sounds like it should be the next 007 theme song is no coincidence. Bellamy’s love of the cinematic is all over the new record, peppered with dramatic strings and Dominic Howard’s trouncing drums. After a storm of audacious sound, the singer steps under the spotlight as the golden ladies romp and wriggle.
From there, Muse builds in another direction with “Madness.” The second single from The 2nd Law is basic 12-bar blues by way of U2’s “Sweetest Thing” and some killer harmonies that feature Bellamy’s flagrant falsetto.
Perhaps the best track is “Panic Station,” a wild potboiler that stuffs Stevie Wonder, INXS and Queen in a blender. Featuring a load of Chicago-based horns, the “Superstition” sense is no accident but it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the funk.
Bassist Christopher Wolstenholme pens two tracks (“Save Me” and “Liquid State”), while Bellamy’s fondness for the symphonic still gets a workout on the concluding suite. And the Queen-inspired rock opera “Survival,” selected as the official song of the 2012 London Olympics, is presented in all its campy brilliance.
Muse isn’t the most original band in the world, but there’s little doubting the fact that their sampling of stimuli works at full effect with this album. The 2nd Law may duplicate U2 (“Big Freeze”) and Radiohead (“Explorers”) brazenly, but something about this pitiless potion still rocks.