Saturday 24 February 2018

Second law of rock -- ditch the melodrama

John Meagher

John Meagher

album of the week


The 2nd Law

(Warner Bros)


The rise of Muse to mega-selling global superstars has been mystifying. Who knew there were so many people out there who have a passion for melodramatic prog-rock that sounds a little like Queen, but without the sense of humour?

Overblown and histrionic, Matt Bellamy and friends have never subscribed to the philosophy of less-is-more and it's clearly not something they are about to embrace on this maximalist mess of an album.

The title refers to something called the Second Law of Thermodynamics -- that's the waste of energy inside a closed system, for those of you not up on your physics -- and it tells you everything you need to know about the lofty, but ridiculous, preoccupations of this English trio.

The Olympics provided many with a sneak preview of what to expect on this sixth album thanks to their risibly over-the-top anthem, Survival, which was the Games' official song.

It's included here and doesn't sound any better by being accompanied by similarly bloated tracks stuffed with all manner of instrumentation and orchestrated to the gills.

Opening song Supremacy ratchets up the melodrama to levels that even this band haven't reached before, but it takes a particularly strong constitution to stomach the piercing guitars and Bellamy's end-of-the-world shrieking.

Think of a Bond theme as imagined in progressive rock hell and you're somewhere close.

All too often, The 2nd Law sounds like a band with way too much money on their hands, one where every whim can be indulged.

Why include a simple guitar line here, one might imagine Bellamy thinking, when we can get a full-blown orchestra instead?

Despite all the over-indulgence, there are fleeting moments when Muse show that some of the hype is justified.

Madness is a genuine triumph that finds the trio embracing electronica and myriad other genres to create something quite unlike anything they have done before.

And the bass-slapping Panic Station is a revelation -- playful and irreverent and very un-Muse like. It just goes to show what an intriguing proposition they can be when they stray out of their comfort zones.

Unfortunately, Muse are reluctant to take risks as much as they could and, for the most part, their windy brand of hysterical rock continues to lay waste to everything in their path.

KEY TRACKS Madness; Panic Station

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