JOPLIN, Mo. —
Weird week at Geek Central: I pre-ordered two albums.
I don’t usually do that, especially when advance, streamed copies of albums can be found pretty easily on the Internet.
- I listened to Passion Pit’s “Gossamer” many, many times on NPR.org before buying it on release.
- I’ve been listening to Minus the Bear’s “Infinity Overhead” from Soundcloud for a couple of weeks, until it went on sale Tuesday.
- I got my fill of Tenacious D’s new album, “Rise of the Fenix,” on Spotify. That’s one of the few albums where the clean version is almost as satisfying as the explicit version -- instead of inserting sound effects, the D re-recorded song lyrics with clean replacements.
So it’s kind of weird that I plunked down cash for albums I can’t hear yet, when ordinarily I listen to an album for free before deciding to buy it. Still, I’ll do that for the Dave Matthews Band and Muse.
Two songs sell ‘2nd Law’
“The 2nd Law” by Muse has me the most stoked, and wouldn’t you know it, the release date isn’t until October. But I’m OK with that, based on the strength of two songs that I’ve heard from the album so far.
“Survival” is the official theme song for the London 2012 Olympics, so the lyrics about running a race make sense. According to a review I read, there really wasn’t a need for the song and its repetitive chorus of “I’m gonna win,” when “Uprising” from its last album would have sufficed. (Chorus: “We will be victorious.”)
But Muse excels at making Wagnerian bombast sound fresh. By the time the piano opening leads to a choral chant over a slow-driving, dirty guitar, Matt Bellamy’s operatic falsetto ending sounds completely rock without cheese.
As for the other pre-released song, “Madness”: Wow. Just wow. “Madness” starts out with a repeating, Muppet-inspired “mah-mah-mah-mah” syllable masquerading as a hook (giving Lady Gaga’s syllabic “Poker Face” chorus a run for the money). That’s not the only masquerading going on -- “Madness” pretends it’s a subtle indie-pop ballad until a Brian May-inspired guitar solo introduces a powerful, extended ending that ties everything together sublimely. (Music geeks will understand this: It ends with major fourth chords, and I am a SUCKER for those.)
Muse often gets criticized as a musical Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup made of Radiohead and Queen, and “Survival” and “Madness” only strengthen this. But Muse has mastered this combination and made it into its unique sound -- so much so that these two songs have me jazzed about the newest album, due out Oct. 1. I decided to pre-order it, despite the band’s last album not really hooking me in.
Other influence will figure in heavily -- namely, Skrillex and Hans Zimmer. “Unsustainable” features the band re-creating Skrillex’s signature dubstep sound with regular instruments, and Zimmer’s influence will be heard in the more orchestrated pieces of an album that singer Matt Bellamy calls “cinematic.”
“The 2nd Law” will be a concept album dealing with Newton’s second law of thermodynamics and how Earth might be unable to sustain unchecked growth, according to a report from Rolling Stone. The sounds will be so varied that the only constant will be Bellamy’s lyrics, he said. “It would sound like three different bands, if it wasn’t for my voice,” he said.
And he’s not the only one singing, according to Rolling Stone: Bassist Chris Wolstenholme will sing two songs, including the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds”-inspired “Save Me.”
A grammar-sensible and fellow Muse-fan friend is just as excited for this album -- “Starlight” inspired her to write a novel. (Where was she when I was getting hammered for knocking Gotye’s bad grammar? NO CLUE.) When Oct. 1 rolls around, I’m sure we’ll be messaging back and forth with our thoughts about this ambitious album.
The other album I pre-ordered will get to my iTunes a little more quickly: “Away from the World” by the Dave Matthews Band will be released on Sept. 11. The Lovely Paula Hadsall and I are big fans. “Stay (Wasting Time)” made it on to our engagement CD, and “Crush” is probably No. 2 on the list of “our songs.” When she heard the lyrics to “Shake Me Like a Monkey,” she laughed and said that only Dave Matthews could write lyrics that awesome.
This isn’t the first time I’ve pre-ordered a DMB studio album. The live ones I can do without -- they feature basically all the same songs with minor differences (“But THIS version of ‘Jimi Thing’ features a banjo solo by Bela Fleck, man!”).
The studio albums are the only DMB albums I bother to buy. Because they are so worth it.
“Mercy,” the first single, sounds a little laid back compared to anything from the band’s last album, “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King.” It’s a slower, emotional song that will get some radio airplay. It features Matthews’ softer lyrical styles, a la “Crash”, and a sufficiently simple chord progression that might leave the virtuosos in the band a little bored.
According to a report on Billboard, the new album is all about love (isn’t every DMB album?). It brings back producer Steve Lillywhite and adds touring musicians to the studio mix for a more full sound.
Another thing driving the album: Matthews doesn’t want to be remembered as a jam band, according to the report. Each one of the 14 songs is a new creation, not something that has been resting in a studio for years.