Muse named its new album "The 2nd Law" (Warner Bros.) because the British prog-rockers believe it depicts the human struggle against the second law of thermodynamics -- in every energy exchange, a little energy is lost, until everything eventually grows cold and, you know, dead.
Muse tries to raise the energy level by turning "The 2nd Law" into something wholly unpredictable. One minute the trio is delivering the most bombastic rock creation this side of "Live and Let Die" in the thunderous opener "Supremacy"; the next they are stripping everything back to Matthew Bellamy's voice, a simple drum track and dubstep synthesizer gurgles in the extraordinarily catchy "Madness."
The wild musical swings are disconcerting, though luckily the band leaves its Skrillex-inspired dubstep number "The 2nd Law: Unsustainable" until almost the end, sandwiched between the metallic stomp of "Liquid State" and the pretty EDM orchestrations of "The 2nd Law: Isolated System."
And that's not even the weirdest stuff. Muse dives into funk (!) on "Panic Station" and then follows that with its over-the-top London Olympics theme "Survival," which tries to combine Queen with metal riffs, operatic choruses and lines like "Race! It's a race! And I'm gonna win!" Next is "Follow Me," which actually builds into a dance-pop number that could come from the next Rihanna album.
Muse makes the genre-jumping on "The 2nd Law" work by keeping pop melodies at the album's core. All the stacked musical and scientific theories and jagged combinations sound on the verge of toppling, at times, but never do -- quite an artistic feat.
BOTTOM LINE Another wild, anything-goes prog-rock ride.