Muse’s newest album facing criticism - The Behrend Beacon

Muse’s newest album facing criticism

Posted on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 4:04 PM

Author: Carson Emili (staff writer)

Few bands have gone through as many different phases as Muse has, from being widely considered a cheap knock-off of British alternative kings, Radiohead, following their 1998 debut “Showbiz”, to the majestic, even arena-rock sounding release of “The Resistance” in 2009, which drew parallels to an even more well-known British group, Queen.  Following the debut of the first two singles off their new album “The 2nd Law”, I was not in the minority, initially disliking the new direction the group was headed in.   With the early sample of the album on iTunes released last Tuesday, I was fully ready to rip apart the newest addition to Muse’s repertoire.  Or, maybe I wasn’t. 

While previous albums screamed with apocalyptic and anti-government messages, the new album deals with lovers, family, and alcoholism.  The previously hard-rocking and guitar-shredding band has also fully embraced previous attempts at symphonic rock, with many of the tracks on the album including these influences.  While several Muse songs previously featured such elements, this new installment features it much more boldly.  

Muse has always been an experimental group, with albums bouncing around from progressive rock to a nearly space-symphonic sound, but “The 2nd Law” offers a direction that even Muse fans wouldn’t have seen coming.   Though Muse’s debut single of the album, “Survival,” can be seen as a blast from the past for the band in terms of instrumental play, a deeper look into the lyrics show Muse’s new direction.  The sound is certainly Queen-like, but cliché and shallow are the best ways to describe Bellamy’s songwriting in this release, far-removed from his often controversial and dark lyrics of the past.  

The second single off of the album is “Madness.”  This song is definitely seen as a punch in the face by many long-term Muse fans.  With its electronic influences, soft pop-rock melody, and crescendo finish, it sounds more like something you’d have found on an early 90s U2 release than on a heavy alternative rock album, but it’s been strongly evidenced that this is the direction Muse is headed towards.

In a mindboggling move, Muse also takes a stab at dubstep with “Unsustainable” and “Isolated System.”  Bellamy sites dub-step artist Skrillex as a strong influence for the band’s final two tracks on the new album.  Of course, Muse has tried this before, with their full orchestra “Exogenesis Symphony” tracks at the end of The Resistance.   

Though they worked well for that album, these two tracks have no place on this album.  While the “Exogenesis Symphony” tracks went with the overall feel of the past album, with its strong symphony and arena rock sounds throughout, the dubstep does little to compliment the rest of this album.  

Admittedly, there are tracks in this album that ultimately are quite catchy and memorable, even if they don’t bring us back to the days of the hard rock Muse.  The lead track, “Supremacy,” does have an utterly apocalyptic sound to it, and Bellamy’s wide vocal range is showcased strongly throughout.  The third track, “Panic Station,” is inexplicably funky and catchy, and not at all like previous Muse releases.  Comparisons can be made to indie-rock group Franz Ferdinand, but with a slightly stronger electronic sound accompanying the playful funk of this track.  With its pop sound and addicting chorus, accompanied by horns trumpeting in the background, “Panic Station” has the makes of an American radio hit.   

The rest of the tracks on the album can be seen as Muse heading in a much more soft, pop-rock direction.  The utilization of lead man Matt Bellamy’s wide-range vocal ability cannot be overlooked though.  It seems as if no matter what direction Muse takes, success will follow, as Bellamy’s voice is just too talented too fail.  Other die-hard Muse fans may disagree with me, calling the band “sell-outs,” but Muse has always been an experimental group, and this album is just another experiment for the ever changing group.