Punk and Pomp: Uno and the 2nd Law

Joy of joys, the new university terms are starting and so the record companies release a shit load of new product for the freshers! I am a big Muse fan and a bigger Green Day fan so it was with a certain amount of glee that I downloaded these two sales units:

Uno – Green Day

Uno is the first in a trilogy. Dos will be released in November this year and Tre in January 2013. It sees a back to basics approach reminiscent of their 90s output and a far cry from the two over-produced rock opera ‘story’ albums the wonderful America Idiot and the so-so 21st Century Breakdown…

I think that if Green Day were not releasing two more albums hot on the heels of this one then some of the tracks would not have made it onto this album; it suffers much the same affliction as Red Hot Chili’s Stadium Arcadium or dare I say it G n’ R’s Use Your Illusion in that some of the tracks sound like B-Sides.

That said I love the fact they have dropped the complicated rock tunes in favour of stripped down American Punk for this album at least (time will tell in relation to what style the other albums have) and it made for a great drive down the M6 in the pissing rain on Sunday gone.

Where I feel it is slightly lacking is in the passion of their more youthful endeavours. I know we are all older and wiser and mellower and time doesn’t stand still even for Green Day – but can you have true punk without the anarchy? In some tracks I get the impression that they are just playing the parts expected of them and that they really don’t mean what they say / sing? Whereas on the likes of Dookie I believed they meant every word. Hold the motherfucker under the water until he drowns? Really? At the end of the day Green Day are in the music business and it seems to me that releasing three albums of hit and miss songs in a short period of time says more about the business than the band.

Muse – The 2nd Law

I will leave discussing the second law of thermodynamics and making smart comparisons to the content of this album to other reviewers. Suffice to say that Muse continue to experiment and not get stuck in a rut – something that a band really needs to do to survive. Take for example Queen, Radiohead, Pop Will Eat Itself, U2 and Depeche Mode who were never scared to experiment and possibly piss off a few hardcore fans along the way with a change in style or message. As such this is actually Muse at their most commercial, given the seriousness and pretensions displayed on previous albums.

The official anthem of the London Olympics Survive is here in all its overblown pomp and choral ridiculousness like the mutant child of We Are The Champions and My Way, but with its heavy layered guitar and rock drumming is actually more representative of early albums than this new one.

In comparison the flagship single Madness sounds like a mix between early Radiohead, Freddie Mercury’s solo stuff and, towards the end, U2; as such is representative of the whole album in its varied influences. But that is not a bad thing. It is quite possibly one of the best singles Muse have ever done and happily glides through a room of X-Factor nobodies like a shark with style and charm as close to perfect pop rock as you can get.

Muse have gone poppy in places, cinematic sounding (Isolated System) in others, along with a little dalliance of the current dubstep zeitgeist (Follow Me, Unsustainable), Carter-esque television news samples, and references to classical music and opera. It is far more accessible than Absolution or indeed The Resistance (which lapsed into pseudo classical navel gazing in the extreme) while still containing a shed load of really good guitar solos / riffs.

I am basing this review on one listening, but so far so good. I expect I will be listening to this a lot more than the Green Day album, although I may skip a few tracks (‘Save Me’ for instance is a rather dull affair which reminded me a little of wishy-washy 90s indie tracks; I was vaguely hoping it was a cover version of the Queen classic, but no such luck).

I am cautiously not going to give marks to either of these two albums because I have not allowed any time for repeated listening. Both were MP3 albums of the week on Amazon and so my views may also be skewed by not paying full price. I think both albums will attract new fans to Green Day and Muse while perhaps alienating some long-time fans, in the first case for being too safe and in the second case for being too experimental.

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2 thoughts on “Punk and Pomp: Uno and the 2nd Law

  1. I’m just listening to Uno at the moment. Firstly, it’s a Green Day album – it sounds like them, it has all of their hallmarks and I’m pretty sure I just heard one of the chord progressions from Idiot. And it’s lively and pretty punchy. But it is so far sounding like the aftermath of a conversation that must have gone along the lines of “Let’s make an album like wot we used to”. It’s got the polish and control of the last two which seems almost at odds with the attempts at teenage swagger and self-assuredness. I’m not ready yet to condemn it as Green Day by the numbers but the thought currently won’t leave my head.
    I’m afraid to listen to Muse after hearing Unsustainable. Dubstep ruined my evening.

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