Matt Bellamy is filled with cheese. His brain, his heart, every orifice is spewing little drips of Kraft cheese that replace typical human organs. This is the only logical reason for why Muse’s new album The 2nd Law is as infuriatingly and excessively cheesy as it is. The trio of Muse- Matt Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard- imbue cheese over every little synth hook, every vocal bellow, every accenting instrument that goes into making The 2nd Law as interesting, humorous, and pleasing as a bankrupt retirement home.
The Muse hate has gotten stronger since the release of 2006′s Black Holes and Revelations, and into truly epic proportions with 2009′s The Resistance. The reasons for this are glaringly obvious for anyone with an inking of musical self-awareness. Muse have embraced bloated silliness. Where their earlier material balanced somber interludes and build-ups, post-2006 Muse tried for a huge approach that ran the music into a filter of declamatory grandiosity- lyrics about the end of the world, political agendas, and just over-the-top bullshit that makes the music seethe and bubble with a awkward tension that is forced and lameduck.
Muse take this approach into stratospheric levels. The group adds even more layers of electronics. Now, the inevitable”dubstep-inspired” thing comes up. In reality, Muse doesn’t dabble into traditional dubstep as much as they would like you to believe given the promotion for the album. It’s here and there, in sporadic little bursts, but is tuned down to “experimental dipping” level. This is neither a strength or a fault. It just sort of is.
Front man Matt Bellamy still audibly breathes between every line. Muse still try for the large and sprawling without succeeding in either. The drumming is competent, though sometimes too rigid. The album premieres with a James Bond-inspired massiveness in Supremacy that just fumbles into a weird vocal interlude of sorts. It’s just messy and uninteresting, and shows Muse trying way too hard to be epic in the same way kids overuse the word to explain every little thing that is anything but epic.
Now, as it stands, The 2nd Law isn’t a total failure. Follow Me is actually huge but has enough strong songwriting to justify its existence, even though it detours into a ludicrous closing that just manages to end before it becomes paradoxically effective. ‘Panic Station’ is the strongest song on the album. It’s funky and rhythmic, and is what I wish Muse would be more if they weren’t too busy sprinkling cheesy bullshit between every vocal break. The closing song is largely instrumental, and is a nice builder that climaxes at just the right time, making for quite an interesting touch far too late in the “game.” The slower songs just flop hard. ‘Explorers bores to tears. ‘Save Me’ offers nothing invigorating, and towards the end of the album, it becomes a testament to patience and focus- something that Muse’s dominant fan base of young High Schoolers will undoubtedly not hold up to.
I find The 2nd Law a bloated mess. It is cheese-infested arena rock at its most ridiculous. The group take that step into electronics full foot forward, and offer us something that is akin to immediate self-parody. The lyrics are, at best unremarkable- at worst, preposterous and unrelatable. There are a few brief glimpses of creativity that sneak out, but the whole thing is coated in such a thick sheen of stupidity, it is hard to find where Muse were being serious and where they were just doing stuff to fuck around because they are a huge massively successful rock band. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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