Time to Write a Rock Opera
As Muse have developed over the years, we have come to expect certain motifs: bombastic rock explosions, tight melodic riffage, sweet angst-filled balladry and an inspirational “us vs. them” libretto delivered via Matthew Bellamy’s impassioned bellowing. Muse most definitely have a developed sound, and yet tapping into various styles has always seemed to be part of the band’s proceedings.
That being said, some may argue the new sonic territory explored on Muse’s sixth album is a bit unexpected. “Follow Me” and “The 2nd Law: Unsustainable” peak with a proper dubstep “drop.” This isn’t so strange when you consider the band has incorporated electronic music for some time now, but it will likely get an eye roll from those who’ve decided dubstep is “the Devil’s music” or at least a passing fad. “Panic Station” is pretty funky, bringing to mind INXS or later David Bowie, and “Big Freeze” references U2 like never before. These are good songs, but may be a bit too outside the Muse box for some.
An even bigger change comes in the form of two songs written and sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme, both composed after successfully stepping away from a rocky relationship with alcohol. “Save Me” is beautiful and entrancing, “Liquid State” is aggressive and straightforward. With a different vocalist, the two songs sound noticeably different than all the others, and would be better off woven into the album rather than paired together towards the end.
Therefore, The 2nd Law winds up a stepping stone, an experiment and a retrospective all at once. This is a transitional piece, but there is a continuing story of the human condition in Muse’s work—and no scarcity of ideas to tell it. With all the theatrics, variety, passion and message Muse has surging within them, perhaps a proper concept album or, even better, a full-fledged rock opera is what should happen next. This could give them a great platform to flaunt their variety. In whatever form, the next work from Muse has the potential to be a masterpiece.