Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Muse - The 2nd Law



“Dean Penfold, the three members of the band Muse have arrived.  Can you meet with them at this time?”
“By all means Mary.  Send them right in.”
My office door opened and admitted the three musicians.  The guitar player/lead singer didn’t allow any time at all to pass before he spoke.
“Look we don’t know who you are but…”
“Gentlemen, it’s nice to finally meet you face to face.  Please, have a seat.”
“Finally meet us?  What are you talking about, and why have you repeatedly called us insisting on setting up a meeting?  What do you want?”
“It’s not what I want.  It’s what I need to tell you.  There is something of the utmost importance that you must know.”
The bass player chuckled incredulously.  “What can possibly be so important that you, a man none of us have ever met, needed to tell us in person instead of over the phone?” he asked.
“Gentlemen, you are operating under a powerful misconception.”
“A powerful misconception?”
“I’m afraid so gentlemen.  While walking through the faculty lounge of this university a couple of weeks ago I spotted one of my science professors listening to your newest album.  As I’m sure you’re aware, we employ some of the finest academic minds the world has to offer.  Our professors have been awarded a slew of honors across an extremely wide spectrum of academic disciplines.  In fact just last year…”
“Get to the point already,” interrupted the drummer.
“Very well sirs.  In order not to waste any more of your time I’ll cut right to the chase.”
“Thank you.”
“The crux of the matter is this.  I’ve listened to your album over a dozen times now and I believe you are attempting to create a perpetual energy machine with your music.”
All three men responded at the same time.  “Excuse me?”  “What?”  “Come again?”
“Please gentlemen, I am a man of science.  There is no need to deny what is clear as day to anyone paying attention.  Clearly, your goal is to harness the human energy created by your listeners’ energetic reactions.  Since your music will be enjoyed by listeners all over the world that means that human energy will be flowing nonstop, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.  Thus, you have a system of energy that will not suffer entropy, at least in theory.  But I’m here to tell you that what you’re trying to do will never work.  It’s impossible.  Admirable yes, but still impossible.”
Again the three men all talked at once.  “You’re insane!”  “Have you lost your mind?”  “I’m glad I didn’t enroll at this university.”
“Look…I get it.  You don’t want to talk about your work publicly for fear that some ne’er-do-well will steal away the credit.  I understand.  But gentlemen let me assure you, there will be no credit to take.  You can’t defy the laws of nature!”
Without saying another word the three band members got up and left.  I can’t be sure, but I think one of them flipped me off.  How rude!  I was only trying to help!

Okay waveriders.  I’d like to try something different with this writeup.  Based on a variety of industry statistics and casual observances I’m going to assume that almost everyone with a set of ears has been exposed to the band Muse.  You might not own any of their albums, but in my opinion once a band is commissioned to compose a song for the Olympics they can officially be dubbed ‘pretty popular with the masses’ and thus ‘well known’.  Hence there is no real need for any in depth biography and we can get right to what I want to talk about…the music.  So let’s get to it, shall we?

The 2nd Law is one of the most enjoyable albums that I have had the pleasure of listening to all year long.  2012 was an extraordinarily strong year for music (at least for me personally).  My music appreciation cup run-eth over all year long, but to be perfectly honest I was fully prepared for this latest Muse release to fall by the wayside.  Why was that?  Well their last album, The Resistance, really didn’t do it for me.  I’ll grant you that after their two previous studio albums and excellent live release my expectations were significantly elevated, but I definitely wanted to hear something different from the band.  Bottom line, I wanted The Resistance to rock a whole lot more.  Enter The 2nd Law.  It’s almost as if I was asked to participate in a conference call with the band members in order to help guide the creative process!  While completely imagined, it’s extremely gratifying.

The first song on the album, “Supremacy”, is a glorious mash up of a foot stomping, string supported guitar/bass riff inspired by Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and the orchestral score to a James Bond film.  “Panic Station” combines a bass line reminiscent of Faith No More’s “Epic” with a driving guitar line that strongly reminds me of Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out”.  Lead-off single “Madness” is what it would sound like if Queen ditched their regular instruments in favor of synthesizers and beat machines.  The first half of the two-part title track is a very ominous symphonic number that could serve as the perfect soundtrack to a modern cinematic thriller.  Not satisfied with merely creating a foreboding atmosphere the track devolves into heavily distorted, ugly, down tuned guitar/bass/drum passages which when listened to loud enough can cause microquakes.  Perhaps the British set a new precedent, but I’m willing to bet that there won’t be an officially sanctioned Olympic song like “Survival” ever again.  The song starts innocently enough with some plucky piano and boastful lyrics but it evolves rather quickly, adding more and more layers of volume and aggression until the guitar/bass/drums synchronize in a head banging finale.  Wonderful stuff!  Wait till you hear the rest!

To sum up waveriders, are you looking for an album chock full of ambitious, interesting music?  More importantly do you want your ambitious, interesting music to actually rock?   Of course you do!  Well then, hop aboard the Muse bandwagon and get your ticket punched because The 2nd Law is one sweet ride.

--Penfold





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