Now that’s what I call classic rock, a clichéd compilation boasting big hits from Queen, U2, ELO, Led Zeppelin and even a cameo by Queens Of The Stone Age.
But wait. What’s that you say? It’s not another of those interminable ‘Now’ sets? Are you sure?
Ah, I see. Sorry.
This is the new Muse album, the band’s first in three years and, according to frontman guitarist Matt Bellamy, the chance for the sci-fi post-prog rockers to stretch some serious musical muscle.
Except they don’t. Not really.
When quizzed about Muse’s new direction last year, Bellamy promised “a Christian gangsta-rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face-melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia.”
It was doubtless tongue in cheek, but with Muse you can never quite be sure. They have a habit of taking themselves seriously, even if nobody else returns the favour.
So what we have is same old, same old but with more classic rock cues than usual. It’s as if Bellamy has brought his record collection to an all-night sozzled student party.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there’s plenty to enjoy on The 2nd Law, even if it is so derivative. Just don’t expect anything jaw-droppingly new.
Supremacy opens the album with a satisfying metal crunch before adding strings, pinching Zeppelin’s Kashmir riff and turning it upside down, and somehow ending up like a James Bond theme.
Big Freeze is a U2 clone complete with Coca-Cola guitar; Liquid State, on which bassist Christ Wolstenholme hollers, borrows from QOTSA; Prelude could be an ELO out-take.
But it’s Freddie Mercury who Bellamy has been listening to. Madness, Follow Me, Panic Station and Explorers all have Queen credentials, the latter two like Another One Bites The Dust and Don’t Stop Me Now.
Olympic anthem Survival remains a car crash of a song, best avoided, and the two-part 2nd Law finalé is a box of fireworks – spectacular but leaving no lasting impression.
Most interesting is Animals, which starts as politely tricksy jazz-lite and ends in what sounds like a full-blown riot.
File under ‘guilty pleasure’ as they like to say on X Factor.