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Revel in the ridiculous with Muse

Taking cues from Skrillex and the 'brostep' boom, the British arena-rockers Muse seem intent on defying all logic on their latest LP. Not that it's ever concerned them before.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 13: Matthew Bellamy of Muse performs during the Outside Lands Music Festival 2011 on August 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 13: Matthew Bellamy of Muse performs during the Outside Lands Music Festival 2011 on August 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)

Muse

The 2nd Law

Warners

***

With their finely honed flamboyance, bombast and air of self-satisfaction, if Muse were asked to identify with a member of the animal kingdom, they might choose a species of exotically plumed bird.

But the multi-platinum band have something in common with the humble platypus, too. So confounded were 18th-century biologists after viewing pelts of the newly discovered egg-laying mammals that many believed they had been shown an elaborate hoax.

Muse may have risen to the position of stadium-fillers such as U2 and Coldplay, but they could never be accused of pushing the kind of bland, catch-all sentimentality of those acts. In fact, with each new album, they pile idiosyncrasy on top of more idiosyncrasy - and their audiences only grow larger.

But riding roughshod over the wisdom that big must mean boring isn't the only thing that many find difficult to reconcile. When the frontman Matthew Bellamy isn't delivering toe-curlingly pretentious lyrics, he's referencing conspiracy theorists who claim humans were genetically engineered by aliens or (the allusion in the album's title) linking global economic collapse to the second law of thermodynamics. Eventually, one has to admit that, like the platypus, Muse are simply an aberration.

Those willing to go along for the ride will find plenty to enjoy in the group's sixth LP, which manages to partially deliver on their recent promises of reinvention. Having admitted a fondness for the US "brostep" supremo Skrillex, the band have incorporated similarly aggressive bass wobbles into not just the raucous Unsustainable, but also the heartfelt Follow Me, about Bellamy's baby son. Similar influences grace the album's high point, Madness, which evokes Queen's It's a Kind of Magic, while employing little more than an electronic bass line.

Elsewhere, it's largely business as usual. Supremacy channels Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, along with the most-over-the-top Bond themes. Then there is the recent Olympic "anthem" Survival - replete with a bellowing choir - it is little surprise that crowds never really got to grips with it. At times, the band seem intent on testing the patience of even the most forgiving listener. Their decision to overlay the low-key number Animals with the sound of a riot, for instance, is like a casual reminder that bad things happen in the world, but without actually bothering to comment on them.

But all this will be water off a duckbilled platypus's back for the group's legions of followers, most of whom will simply enjoy the album for all its ludicrous ambitiousness, content in the knowledge that Muse still don't make the slightest bit of sense.

Updated: October 2, 2012 04:00 AM

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