Muse – The 2nd Law
According to the Guardian this album is ‘meant to be funny’. Phew. That’s fortunate, because I’ve had to keep pausing it every ten minutes to go off and stifle a fit of the giggles. In fact, reading the Guardian’s review, it’s hard to work out why it received four stars out of five from that most august of loss-posting organs, since Alex’s Petridish doesn’t really seem to feel all that strongly about it one way or the other.
Anyway, I’ve never given a particular fuck about the pop group Muse so I’m probably the last guy who should be writing about them; but then again I do enjoy upsetting people who ought to know better. So here we go. In most ways this album is insufferably shit, and yet in one solitary regard, it’s a work of fucking genius.
If you were to take this record as pure pastiche, allowing that it has not a single original idea to its name, you end up with something incredible. The 2nd Law is the Supermarket Sweep of albums; a madcap trolley dash through the back catalogues of respected classic rock artists like Queen, ELO, Helmet, U2, Michael Jackson, Wings, Tangerine Dream, Foo Fighters and Skrillex???? *record scratch* wait what
At any given moment on this record, scientists now claim, there are as many as 26 different well-known bands or songs being ripped off. Trying to identify every familiar shred of stolen or derivative music on this record is highly distracting and downright fucking exhausting. I feel like an air crash investigator after a mid-flight explosion, combing mile after square mile of meadow digging up shards of fuselage and engine housing for painstaking analysis back at base. But until we locate the flight recorder, I fear we may never know the full tragedy behind The 2nd Law.
Supremacy is a rejected James Bond theme with a pilfered riff that came from Led Zep by way of Audioslave. That’s right folks, it sounds like it was stolen twice. Panic Station is Another One Bites The Dust crossed with We Care a Lot and an immediately-recognisable hook from Thriller. Madness is just Queen’s I Want To Break Free given an uninteresting electronic facelift and without any of the original song’s subtext. Even Matt Bellamy’s guitar solo sounds about the same as Brian May’s. ‘Is it love or is it madness?’ Oh sometimes we have fights wah wah wah. Who gives a FUCK Matt? Grow up.
Animals is basically Paranoid Android. Explorers repurposes a melodic hook from Don’t Stop Me Now, and shamelessly too, marrying it to a bit that sounds a lot like You Only Live Twice. Then it only goes and does a Westlife key change for the last chorus. Big Freeze, the very next song, also reminds me of Don’t Stop Me Now, only this time mashed up with Where the Streets Have No Name.
Save Me sounds like Foo Fighters channelling Travis, and Liquid State sounds like Helmet covering Everlong. And the less said about the dubstep bits, the better, to be honest. Ultimately the most maddening aspect of The 2nd Law is all the parts you can almost identify, but not quite. There’s a fucking lot of those. It’s like watching an old film full of dead marquee names and trying to remember who they divorced and when. Shit just gets in the way.
If this record is a trolley dash, then the only question left to ask is whether or not it’s intentional. I mean, it’s got to be. You can’t just nick a bit from Thriller and then say ‘fuck it, keep it. No-one’ll notice.’ So what are they playing at? Homage? Pastiche? What the fucking hell is this supposed to be, Muse? I’m asking you.
Muse do not respond to hails. No radar contact. Distress beacon active. All souls presumed lost. The 2nd Law is a massive fucking plane crash, and the wreckage is just too granular and too widely distributed for a single investigator to catalogue.
I’m gonna need a team.