October Music Review (part 1) – Muse, Green Day, the Mumfords

What do you do when you’re a mega-huge band and that new album is due? We’ve seen three different approaches this month from what are arguably three of the ten biggest bands in the world today, who all have new albums out.

Strategy One – back to basics

Green Day – Uno

Green Day are putting out three albums in the next few months, originally titled Uno!  Dos! and Tre! UNO! is a back to basics pop-punk collection, sounding similar to early works such as Dookie – with tracks such as Shoot the DJ a rare exception with its Rock the Casbah influences. They can sound a bit like middle aged guys trying to get down with the kids by swearing a little too self-consciously at times, but it’s fun, catchy, with great tunes and a couple of tracks (Nuclear Family, Oh Love) already sounding like perennial Green Day classics that they’ll be playing when they headline Reading in 2022. A solid 7/10 from me.

Strategy Two – more of the same

Mumford and Sons – Babel

As I’ve said before, I saw the Mumfords when they were just Laura Marling’s backing band and loved them, liked the first album a lot, and at Reading two years ago they were brilliant. So whilst they’ve never been a favourite of real music writers, I’m a fan. But Babel, their second album, is disappointing.  I’ve had problems though analysing why, as at first listen it sounds very similar to Sigh No More – folk/bluegrass feel, songs start small, build to big finishes in most cases.

I think it comes down to a few factors – the musical palette seems a little more limited, with more banjo and less horns, and nothing as thrilling as the climax of Dust Bowl Dance for instance (more of an American feel to appeal to their burgeoning US fan base perhaps?).  Certainly less harmony vocal and more of just Marcus Mumford.  The lyrics seem even more pretentious (a bit of an issue on the first album) and I don’t know why they keep pretending they’re not a Christian band given the constant references to forgiveness, grace, etc etc.  And the songs are just not as catchy, with the exception of I Will Wait. When two of the bonus tracks on the extended edition of the CD  - the beautifully simple folk song For Those Below, and a cover of The Boxer by Paul Simon - are my favourites it’s indicative of some issues. It’s not awful or anything but ... 6/10

Strategy Three – Do Anything You Wanna Do!

Muse – The 2nd Law

How many different styles can you get onto one album? Was that the Muse joke behind this somewhat crazy but impressive work?  Starting with track 1, the Led Zeppelin meets Andrew Lloyd Webber Supremacy, this album is all over the place, in the best possible sense. If you thought their Olympic theme tune, Survival was a bit OTT, then let’s just say it fits in here fine. (The Guardian rather brilliantly described that as “Quasi-Nietzschean pep talking. It sturms, it drangs and finally collapses in on itself in a flurry of falsetto, having out-Queened Queen”).

Madness is one of the best Queen songs you’ve never heard... Animals is obviously an undiscovered Radiohead track circa 2003....Follow Me could be a big club hit with a quick Swedish House Mafia remix...And by the time we get to the 2nd Law; Unsustainable and Isolated System, the two final connected tracks, well, anything seems possible, including a massed choir, bleeping electronics and strange robot voiceovers telling us about energy exchange, unsustainable development and (probably) the end of the world.

It is all totally bonkers, often very enjoyable if a little – how can I put it – uneven in places.  (Jane says you feel "exhausted but uplifted" by the end of it)!  But well done to Muse for putting out something they want to do, with little apparent consideration of focus groups, target audiences, or whether we will conclude that they’re eccentric to say the least.  7.5/10

Incidentally, last week the Mumfords were at number 1 in the US Billboard chart with Muse at number 2, as music emphasises its status as one of the UK’s leading export industries!  And next week we’ll feature some lesser known artists who also released albums in this amazing month for music.

First Voice

  1. DJF:

    haha. Great Post! Like the MUSE comments!

    These are my three favourite bands! Is this a Procurement trait?? 🙂

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