Muse - The 2nd Law (2xLP - 180 Gram Vinyl)
Muse didn't set out to make the most gloriously ambitious album of their career. How could they have? The band who dreamt up "Supermassive Black Hole," "Knights Of Cydonia" and the three-part "Exogenesis" symphony were already well-versed in going one louder. Any wilder, any further out there, and Muse would risk incineration by a dwarf star of their own making. But you don't become one of the biggest bands on this planet, in excess of 15 million albums sales worldwide, 5 MTV Europe Awards, 2 Brit Awards, 8 NME Awards, 5 Q Awards, 4 Kerrang Awards and winner of the Best Rock Album Grammy 2011; No 1 in 19 countries with 2009's The Resistance; filler of arena and stadia across the world, by sitting on your hands.
So when Muse approached the making of their sixth studio album, they wouldn't stint on the choirs, strings and horn sections. And be reassured: guitar-shredding, piano-thumping, orchestra-arranging, book-chewing, big-thinking Matt Bellamy, as the band's chief songwriter, didn't lower his sights from the big picture nor ignore the precious details. And nor were the trio afraid of giving space to a brilliant new element to their sound, songs written and sung by bass player Chris Wolstenholme. But what the Devon-born band of schoolfriends did do different was this: they made things easy for themselves. For the first time since the dawn of their career in small town England 18 years ago, all three members were living in the same place during the making of an album. Domiciled in and around London, they block-booked a recording studio, Air, and came and went as they pleased.
This time, the only clock Muse had to beat was their own internal band rhythm. They had the days and weeks and space to experiment, explore ideas, rig up massive in-studio PA systems, hire in remixers, play with pedals, and fanny around to their hearts' content. And this time, Muse had the experience born of self-producing The Resistance to apply their studio knowledge to creating the album they really wanted to make. It was about saving aggro, and conserving energy. And, appropriately, it was about The 2nd Law: an album titled after and thematically influenced by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which concerns the inevitable wasting of energy within a closed system.
It was about letting themselves go and enjoying themselves. Muse, after all, had earned it. "We all had a lot of great fun doing it," says Wolstenholme,"and hopefully you can hear that on the album. There are some real moments of positivity in the songs. And I just think everyone personally is in a pretty good place at the moment." "It feels like the best thing we've ever done," says drummer Dom Howard. "There was a sense of adventure making it." "This was a breeze!" declares Bellamy, still high from the experience of seeing rock-operatic new track "Survival" emerge victorious as the official anthem for the London 2012 Olympics. "We were making ourselves laugh at times with how different things were sounding."
As Howard accurately describes it, The 2nd Law brims with "wild" sounds. It's exactly what Muse had in mind when they sat down last October after the completion of the two-year Resistance world tour. Within four quick weeks the trio had 13 tracks in embryonic but viable form. From solid beginnings came big tunes. "Madness," the album's naggingly infectious first single, pulses with a grimy throb. It sounds nothing like Muse, and it sounds everything like Muse. In any case, any album that includes both "Survival," their po(m)p and circumstance Olympic anthem, and a song with the Queen-go-disco abandon of "Panic Station" can't, ultimately, take itself too seriously. 180g 2LP in gatefold jacket with printed sleeves and lyric inserts from Warner Bros. Records.