Review: Muse’s ‘The 2nd Law’

"Muse" singer Matt Bellamy.
(Leon Neal / AFP / Getty Images)

The English rock band Muse set off a worldwide hunt for synonyms for “overblown” earlier this year when it unleashed “Survival,” a proudly Nietzschean piece of choral apocalypse that somehow became the official anthem of the London Summer Olympics. Yet it turns out “Survival” was just a warm-up: With a title inspired by the second law of thermodynamics, Muse’s latest studio album opens with a tune called “Supremacy” (think Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” remade for a James Bond flick) and only grows bigger and bolder from there.

In “Follow Me,” the band layers lush Hollywood strings over an arena-scaled dubstep drop, while the two-part title track climaxes in a barrage of dentist-drill guitars and disembodied robot voices. “Buy yourself an island,” frontman Matt Bellamy croons in the bitterly sarcastic “Animals,” and though the words are indicting Wall Street pillagers (perhaps the very ones heard chattering in the song’s sample of a trading-floor field recording), the ever-expanding music happily follows his instructions.

What distinguishes “The 2nd Law” from earlier Muse records is that Bellamy and his bandmates have finally made room in their super-sized sound for a sense of humor. This is a far funnier (and funkier) effort than 2009’s “The Resistance,” which handled similar themes with a glum sobriety. Here “Madness” rides a fat-bottomed R&B; groove, and the slap-bass-enhanced “Panic Station” feels like a homage to Robert Palmer’s mid-'80s soul-rock crew, the Power Station. “This chaos, it defies imagination,” Bellamy sings in the latter. What better excuse for a party?

“The 2nd Law”



(Warner Bros.)

3 stars

Albums are rated on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor).