In the past couple years since Muse’s last release The Resistance, I was really starting to miss songs about government conspiracies, the dystopian future and the Illuminati. Thank goodness Muse is back! And they are ready to take on the future once again. “Wake to see, your true emancipation is a fantasy” is how Muse’s 6th opus kicks off in “Supremacy”, walloping hard with furious guitars, screaming falsettos and an orchestra that could have been yanked from a Michael Bay movie. The end of civilization never felt so good.
Oddly enough, a lot of longtime fans voiced their disdain on this release, being at odds with the electronic experimentation and undertones in several of the songs, such as “Madness”. I disagree, and this has actually become one of my favorite Muse tracks. Playing a bass line on a computerized device called a Misa Digital Kitara, it really sounds like the gorgeous romantic but frightening love song of the future. Then we come to the quirky “Panic Station”, complete with players from Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” on horns, a beat that sounds much like Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”, but with a definite Muse edge. One of my favorites and by far one of the most energetic.
Next is the polarizing track, “Survival”, that was released for the Olympics this summer. This one unfolds with a couple listens. After a big prelude, the song starts out very simple “Race.. it’s a race.. and I’m gonna win. Yes I’m gonna win.” First impression is the lyrics were a toss-off, very blandly written for the Olympics, until the male choir chimes in with the chant “So I told you!” and females chant “You were warned but didn’t listen!”, Matt Bellamy hits an earth shattering wail “I’m gonna WIIIIIIIIIIIIN!” and the band catches fire, marching into post apocalyptic Hunger Games territory. The Olympics are now blood sport.
“Follow Me” umm.. follows… next, first softly and a bit dark sounding, then blossoming into a big melody and a hard electro undercurrent. The lyrics are said to be written for Bellamy’s son. “Animals” brings Muse back to Radiohead-esque territory. But “Paranoid Andoid” Radiohead, like some of us wish they still made before Thom Yorke got nearly indecipherable. The lyrics are a stark painting of the ugly side of humanity. “Kill yourself, do us all a favor!”. Ending with the maddening sounds of the main floor of Wall Street. “Explorers” follows right behind this vibe, starting almost as a lullaby, “Free me, free me from this world”. It then grows into a gorgeous melody starkly contrasting the words. “Big Freeze” has more than a nod to the musical styles of U2’s Achtung Baby, but again not a copy, but more being musically aware of their predecessors.
The next two tracks are almost a two-parter, both written and sung by bassist Chris Wolstenholme about his battle with the bottle. First, “Save Me” has a very dreamlike progressive rock drifty feel, and “Liquid State” is the evil twin, the heavy crunchy guitar track. Both are pretty much pages from his diary about his fight.
The big finale is a two-parter called “The 2nd Law”, based on the second law of thermodynamics, which is as follows:
“The entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium — the state of maximum entropy. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the second kind are impossible.” (Wikipedia quote)
Both are instrumental and based around news reports, and play like a film. Part one, “Unsustainable”, is where Muse veers with abandon into the world of Skrillex. However, most of the sound is produced by heavily distorted guitar and drums. A video for the track prefaced the album release and scared many into thinking Muse had gone fully electronic. However it is used purely for effect, being backed by band and full orchestra. It is the sound of the world being swallowed up by itself. By drastic contrast, “Isolated System”, plays like a quiet credits roll after a jolting movie ending. Aside from the echoes of the same news reporter, it is very delicate and beautiful, but very sad. But is it the end, or the beginning?
If Charles Darwin had theme music, it should have been by Muse. The future never sounded so frightening and exciting at once!
Videos from the album to check out:
“Panic Station” (Live):