Muse, Mudhoney, Queens of the Stone Age, Heart, and more.
by Gregg Shapiro
Not as awful as you may have been led to believe, The 2nd Law (WB), by twenty-first-century prog rockers Muse, is the kind of disc that grows on you after a few spins. Muse draws more heavily on a multitude of influences including the inventiveness of Radiohead (the derivative duo “Animals” and “Explorers”), the glam grandeur of Queen (“Survival” and “The Second Law: Unsustainable”), the arena excesses of Led Zepplin (“Supremacy”), and U2 (“Big Freeze”). Muse is especially inspired on songs where their creative perspective shines the brightest, such as the insanely infectious “Madness,” the metal funk of “Panic Station,” the disco drama of “Follow Me,” and the pretty “Save Me.”
Grunge forebears and survivors Mudhoney return with the bluesy and ballsy Vanishing Point (Sub Pop). The best album The Stooges never made, Vanishing Point goes for humorous pop-culture refs. The late Billy Preston gets name-checked on “What to Do with Neutral.” The thunderous “Chardonnay” flushes the ubiquitous drink (when Mark Arm bellows “I hate you, Charonnay,” you believe it). Floats get decorated in “Douchebags on Parade.” Sarcasm sweetens Mudhoney’s antics, and there is plenty to spare on Vanishing Point.
There are real queens on the new Queens of the Stone Age disc Like Clockwork (Matador)—qualifying QOTSA front man Josh Hommes as an official friend of the community. None other than Sir Elton John can be heard on the seventies rock conjurer “Fairweather Friends” (along with Dave Grohl on drums). Scissor Sister Jake Shears lends his vocals to the sludgy blues of opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled.” But the royal raucousness doesn’t end there. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” has a glam-rock bite, as does “Kalopsia” (featuring Trent Reznor). “If I Had a Tail” is the tail-shakingest tune on the disc, while the funky “Smooth Sailing” ought to sail smoothly into the hands of club DJs. And you’d better prepare yourself for beauty of the closing title tune.
Long before there was Mudhoney and Queens of the Stone Age, Boston’s Mission of Burma messed around with your hearing. In the nine years since Mission of Burma reformed (after a 1983 health-related breakup), the legendary musical unit has released more albums than they did in their early years. The funky, shape-shifting opener “Dust Devil” gets Mission of Burma’s latest Unsound (Fire) off to an irresistible start. “Semi-Pseudo-Sort-of Plan” is semi-pseudo-sort-of pretty, while the disc’s aqua-centric centerpiece trio “Part the Sea,” “FellàH2O,” and “Add In Unison” should slake any listener’s thirst for experimental hard rock.
You’re probably wondering where the hard-rocking women are right about now. Look no further than beloved rock legends Heart (aka Ann and Nancy Wilson) and their latest full-length disc of new material Fanatic (Legacy). Intended to accompany the Wilson sisters’ memoir, Fanatic finds the pair rocking out right from the start on the titular opener before shifting gears into the funky blues of “Dear Old America” and then slipping into the acoustic “Walkin’ Good,” featuring a guest appearance by Sarah McLachlan (!). The sisters return to the rock on the “500 Miles” homage “A Million Miles” and “59 Crunch.”
Continuing their mission to make metal safe for hipsters, Canadian duo Japandroids do just that on Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl). Arena rock geared for the bearded bicycle riders and their significant others, the celebratory energy is alternately delirious and deafening. It’s an admirable feat best exemplified on “Younger Us,” “The House that Heaven Built,” the fittingly titled “Continuous Thunder,” and a cover of The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” (co-written by gay musician Kid Congo Powers).
The career of alt/rap-metal pioneers and survivors Incubus is summed up on the double disc set The Essential Incubus (Epic/Immortal/Legacy). The twenty-eight-song set features selections from the band’s 2011 studio release If Not Now, When? as well as “essential” hits such as “Drive” and “Wish You Were Here.” Rap-metal act Linkin Park owes a debt of gratitude to Incubus for paving the way for them to perform their scream/hip-hop hybrid on Living Things (WB/Machine Shop), featuring the hot and rhythmic “Burn It Down.” Song titles such as “In My Remains,” “Lies Greed Misery,” “Victimized,” and “Powerless” should give you a pretty good idea of what else is in store.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.