Muse's career has lived in the shadow of their British peers. They have never achieved the respect of Radiohead and have not adopted a sound that would woo fans of bands like Coldplay. Yet, Matthew Bellamy has demonstrated over the past 5 albums that he is not only a tremendous musician, but also an inventive songwriter. As a band, the trio's first albums were pegged as alternative for the lack of any better way to describe the band's prog rock aesthetic.
As Muse achieved major commercial success in the U.K., they were marketed to U.S. fans as "hard rock," a label that possibly turned away any potential for a wider audience. Despite the lack of a massive international single, they have stayed true to their high production values. Their appetite for creating slick-sounding rock albums paid off with their 2006 release, Black Holes and Revelations, which produced 5 singles and was well-received by critics.
Muse followed up the success of Black Holes and Revelations with an album with a heavy conceptual angle to accompany their heavy production. The Resistance opened up a new side to the band's abilities, and exposed their true potential. Muse stretched their songs into anthems and added garish layers of guitar effects, vocal treatments and rhythmic changes.
Last year, Muse released The 2nd Law, which matches the production and songwriting on The Resistance and adds to their influences. Like their previous album, The 2nd Law is conceptual in content and texture. With their sixth studio release, Muse proves that they are worthy of being a true English rock band by flaunting sonic references to Queen, David Bowie and even Pink Floyd.
It's the best album of their career because it shows their ambition to live up to their commitment to making studio albums. If you think it's just commercial rock, then you have missed the point. The studio is as much of an instrument for this band as it is a tool to record their music. From the subdued sound on "Madness" to the frantic layers of "Panic Station," every piece of this album was created with the intent to improve on their previous efforts. It's a testament to high production values in an era when anyone can record an album.
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