Muse: The 2nd Law

Published in Five Cent Sound magazine (formerly Chaos magazine).

By Alexandra Fileccia

After premiering their Olympic anthem “Survival” in London this summer, English rock trio Muse released their sixth studio album The 2nd Law. The title of the album refers the second law of thermodynamics which drummer Dominic Howard described in an interview with BBC as “The theory that all energy as we know it—in ourselves, on this planet, in the universe—is essentially running out and cooling down and dispersing.”

The album opens with the thick chugging of heavy bass in “Supremacy.” This military march echoes how people are sick of the spiraling economic situation. “Policies, have risen up and overcome the brave/ Greatness dies, unsung and lost, invisible to history,” yells lead singer Matthew Bellamy in the second and third lines of the song. It is definitely a song appropriate for before an epic fight scene in a movie—inspiration for revolution. If you listen carefully, the faint whisper of the 007 theme song can be heard under the distorted guitar solo, adding to the suspense.

Economic turmoil is the main theme threaded through each track on the album. In “Animals,” Bellamy calls out big business saying, “Crush those who beg at your feet/ Analyse, franchise, spread out/Kill the competition/And buy yourself an ocean.” The song then ends with sounds of a rioting mob.

The following track “Explorer” channels Freddie Mercury combining “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”-like melodies that take a chill pill after the angsty “Animals.” The repetition of the line “There’s nothing left for you or for me” follows up on the evil corporate world mentioned in the previous song. In the chorus, Bellamy asks the listener to free him from this world. It is clear that the lead singer is not content in the pessimism he is surrounded by so he is asking for a change in policy—an improvement in the quality of life.

Bellamy, Howard and guitarist Christopher Wolstenholme lay down the funk in “Big Freeze.” Though lurking with gloom, the song bounces with the staple funk and a melody that reflects the sound of their previous album Resistance. “Panic Station,” another groovy track, pushes forward with its Michael Jacksonesque bass line. The chorus mimics the melody of the beginning verses in “Thriller.”

The pop-rock single “Madness” takes a little from the electronic world with its wobble bass though I would certainly not call it dubstep. It’s very minimal compared to the apocalyptic, showy sound the band is known for. If you’re looking for a song to pin as dubstep, “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” would be just that. This song used in their album preview video explains what the second law of thermodynamics in a creepy, robotic female voice before it goes into a drop of grinds and warps of machines. This song sums up the entire album in just its name—the notion that the world we live in today is unsustainable and is heading toward its doom.

The 2nd Law is a step in a new direction for the English trio. Yes, it is different than previous albums and may be seen as “selling out” due to electronic influences and if it’s old school charm, why would they be selling out?, however the album is powerful nonetheless. The compilation of songs captures the “end of the world” attitude that the second law of thermodynamics theorizes. If we don’t make a change now, then Earth is headed toward its end—that is what The 2nd Law is all about.

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