That Muse are one of the biggest bands on the planet should come as little surprise to anyone with even a passing interest in music.
**Note: this is an archived review, originally posted on Almost Famous back in 2012**
As innovative on record as they are in their elaborate stage shows, the trio have constantly captured both imagination and attention since their 1999 debut Showbiz.
Displaying an unrivaled penchant for experimentation, the group followed up that debut with arguably their finest hour to date in Origin of Symmetry, beginning a trend for pushing the boundaries of what modern day rock music could sound like which would continue with Absolution and their 2006 epic Black Holes and Revelations.
The problem, if you can call it such a thing, is that as the band continued to push those boundaries through 2009’s mediocre offering, The Resistance, they pushed themselves so far away from their original sound that in 2012 they’re barely recognisable as a rock band at all.
Indeed, with latest outing The 2nd Law, Muse seem far more interested in reinventing themselves as purveyors of over-the-top bombastic pop.
That may be slightly unfair.
With opening track Supremacy, the trio do at least offer a nod to their scorching rock roots, a fat, fuzzy bassline leading dramatic keys which don’t sound entirely unlike they could have been pilfered from Led Zepplin’s Kashmir towards a scintillating finale full of screeching guitars and piercing vocals. It’s at once both mightily ferocious and incredibly camp, perfectly showcasing exactly what Muse do best; the most flamboyant, classically-inspired rock epics this side of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Yet from there, the whole things veers off into a multitude of directions.
Madness is a song which seems entirely ill at ease with itself, flirting between tawdry pop pap and chilled out electronica.
Things are immediately better with the arrival of Panic Stations, a jaunty, funk infused disco delight designed for dancefloors the world over which lifts it main melody unashamedly from Michael Jackson zombiefest Thriller.
Elsewhere, the eccentric monster that is Survival stands out as a highlight of this 13 track album, a dainty piano eventually gathering muscle and hurtling brooding vocals into menacing basslines and thick beats to create an instantly memorable gem of a track.
Appealing to Muse fans of old, Survival joins Supre
macy in revealing Muse at their hardest and heaviest, only for Follow Me to rear its ugly (and I mean ugly) head with a dance track which sort of sounds like the kind of terrible nonsense Lucifer might deliver as a welcoming gift to Hell’s newcomers.
It’s probably fair to say that The 2nd Law follows a similar pattern throughout; kick some arse with a maddening, monstrous epic track which conjures forth images of a half-crazed conductor smacking his orchestra about the head with an electric guitar, mellow out a bit, tread a fine line between the tedious and the terrible for a bit, and repeat.
It’s good in parts, quite brilliant in others and mind-numbing everywhere else, yet its certainly innovative throughout and should further cement their status as one of the world’s biggest bands.