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Muse, ‘The 2nd Law’ – Album Review

Warner Music
Warner Music

Muse are always going to be an ersatz Queen, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also be one of the most preposterously entertaining bands around, hyper-accelerating their enormous musical Id into warp speed and, album after album, creating some of the most bombastic, bodacious rock ‘n’ roll audacity you’ll hear anywhere, anytime.

On ‘The 2nd Law,’ there are points that are so brazen — so engorged and cosmically operatic — that the only proper response is to somehow throw your fist in the air while doubled over in disbelief that a band this side of Dream Theater has the swinging meteoroids to record something so pompous.

It’s a good thing! And it’s why Muse’s sixth album, in all of its gaudy sonic spectacle, is one of the most fun albums of the year.

With the first track, it’s glaringly obvious that, over the next 54 minutes, Muse are going to take no prisoners. The call-and-response guitar draws back the album’s curtain, and the band waits all of 20-something seconds to drop strings reminiscent of Puff Daddy sampling Zeppelin for the ‘Godzilla’ soundtrack.

Matt Bellamy’s first lyric of the album? “Wake to see your true emancipation is a fantasy,” to which the only appropriate response is, “LOLWTF: Well alright, then!”

Insofar as Muse are expected to make universe-eating rock, this album is a cackling, titanium, rocket-powered Ur-Robot humping a black hole. It’s absolute bug-eyed rock ‘n’ roll megalomania.

Take ‘Survival,’ in all its pomposity, which gives Bellamy a chance to dress up like some post-apocalyptic Jean Valjean as the backing choir fights for room amid relentless axe work. Or the penultimate track and crux of the album, ‘The 2nd Law: Unsustainable,’ which sees Muse glitch out Wagner and lean the profundo orchestration up against tonight’s bleak leaking story from the Skrillex News Network.

But the album’s high point, ‘Madness,’ is legitimately stunning in all of its massive EDM wobble. That, combined with its “M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m mad mad mad” vibrastutter sampled butt-shaker of a foundation, could very well make for the best song Muse has ever released. Thematically, it’s a tender track that, instead of opting for big, blubbery melodrama, chooses to get girthy on French house bass quakes and cold drum-machine percussion before blindsiding you with quick washes of neon harmonies.

‘The 2nd Law’ is absolute lunacy: a big, slick, dumbfounding blockbuster spectacle in the best way. It’s cavalier and overboard in nearly every respect, and this year’s music is a lot more fun for it.

8 out of 10 rating

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