Dubstep and Muse go surprisingly well together
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 15:10
The new Muse album has dubstep songs on it. For most hardcore Muse fans, that sentence will be enough to make them steer clear of “The 2nd Law,” the English rock band’s sixth studio album. This is a shame, because “The 2nd Law” is the most interesting album the band has put out in years.
Muse came on to the scene in the early 2000s and developed a modest fanbase despite their similarity to another popular English act, Radiohead. They really came into their own with “Absolution” in 2003 and “Black Holes and Revelations” in 2006. These albums took lead singer Matthew Bellamy’s operatic vocals and gave them an aggressive, hard rock edge.
Unfortunately, Muse’s follow-up to “Black Holes And Revelations,” “The Resistance” was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t bad, but it just seemed like the band was retreading the territory that they had already visited with their previous albums. Despite this, the album was a massive hit and even won them the Grammy for “Best Rock Album.”
Now it’s been three years and Muse has released “The 2nd Law,” cleverly named after the second law of thermodynamics. In the song “Unsustainable,” the law is quoted explicitly. “All natural and technological processes proceed in such a way that the availability of the remaining energy decreases.” Essentially they are saying that if they keep going the way they were going, the music would eventually become stagnant.
Fittingly, “Unsustainable” is also the most radically different track on the album, a head-banging ear-splitting dubstep track that would feel at home on a Skrillex album but still manages to have Muse’s signature space-opera vibe.
Not every song is dubstep-oriented, though. In fact, the best song on the album is “Panic Station,” a funky track that is reminiscent of Prince. The band still sticks to their melodramatic and sometimes ridiculous sci-fi lyrics, but they blend well with the new electronic sound the band is going for.
The album does have a few duds, including the first single “Survival,” a generic anthem written for the Olympic games, which includes cheesy lyrics like “life is a race, and I’m going to win.”
Popular electronic music for the most part has been in search of a soul, and Muse has been looking for a new sound, so it was only a matter of time before the two found each other. On songs like “Follow Me,” the dubstep and electronica influences are blatantly apparent, but it is also unmistakably a Muse song. It’s not often that somebody with a voice as powerful as Bellamy’s is heard over an electronic dance beat like this.
The second half of the album returns to more familiar territory beginning with “Animals,” a slow guitar-based rock song with haunting vocals. This tone carries on through the next few tracks until “Liquid State,” a fast-paced rock track that would feel more at home on a Foo Fighters album than on a Muse CD.
The final two tracks of the album “Unsustainable” and “Isolated System,” are the most electronic and bizarre tracks. The hard core Skrillex-style dubstep and frequent sampling is interesting, but Muse is better suited to blending electronic music into their style instead of trying to master the genre itself.
Overall, “The 2nd Law” is by no means a perfect album. The grab bag of genres and styles makes the album seem less cohesive than it should be. However, an album this ambitious should be encouraged. Much like in thermodynamics, if more energy is not added into a system, the remaining energy becomes dispersed and useless. “The 2nd Law” is just the burst of energy that Muse needed.