Let's not kid ourselves, Muse have always suffered from somewhat of an identity crisis; from their first EP in 1998, to when they came to prominence in 1999 with their debut album Showbiz, the comparisons to Radiohead were a cross that they had to bear. It wasn't until 2001's Origin Of Symmetry that the band came close to shaking that tag, and to possibly challenge Radiohead's crown as the best British band of a generation.
Sadly, the three Devonshire schoolmates couldn't match that output on the follow up, Absolution, and so the metamorphosis into some kind of Queen tribute act began. Across two subsequent albums, Black Holes and Revelations and The Resistance, their sound became more and more grandiose, drawing on the influences of Mercury and May from the still brilliant 'Knights of Cydonia' (a song that inspired myself and some fellow Croydon natives to adopt it for our 2007 NYE fancy dress theme, The Knights of Croydonia) and onward throughout the whole of The Resistance, culminating in this new record, The 2nd Law.
Muse’s sixth studio album is the bands most outrageous record yet, by now you will most probably have heard the single 'Madness', or 'I Want To Break Free', such is the unashamedly blatant theft of not just the tune but even the guitar solo from the famous hoover's and cross-dressing Queen classic. Hints of David Bowie are littered through the bass laden 'Panic Station' (see: 'Another One Bites the Dust') which at times even sounds a little bit like Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' (on the chorus).
While the album opener 'Supremacy' manages to sound like the Muse of old, there is a strong resemblance to 'Come With Me' from the Godzilla movie soundtrack in places. Bellamy and co. even get some dubstep in the mix on 'Follow Me' which is sure to be a single. It's typically Muse, with a theatrical tone bordering on operatic at times, and enough 'down with the kids' bass to soundtrack a car advert or two. Speaking of kids, that heartbeat you can hear is that of the frontman's son, aww.
Bassist Chris Wolstenholme performs two songs he penned himself this time around. 'Save Me' is a ballad of sorts, and the second - Liquid State' - takes a garage rock route, although I genuinely thought the album had finished and a Foo Fighters song had come on my computer by accident.
In short, there are so many influences on this album that if you were to Shazam any one of these tracks you would get back several results for each submission. Is this a bad thing though? Is it fair to say that there is still place out there for big stadium rock? While we've all been obsessing with 80's synths and 90's throwback pop, is it not acceptable for a band like Muse to say 'fuck it, we're going to enjoy ourselves playing what we want, how we want and we'll still sell out Wembley Stadium in the process?'
I think it is. Once you're six albums in and have sold as many units as a band like Muse then you can forgive them some level of self-indulgence. You were delusional if you thought for one moment that this album would be anything other than what it is: a bunch of friends making the music they've wanted to for a while. However, that doesn't make this a good album, and I can't ever see myself ever playing it a fraction of the times I've listened to their older material. As a review from The Quietus has alluded to, Muse put that Origin Of Symmetry era to bed in a Berkshire field last Summer and everybody just needs to get used to that.