Here’s a late-night album I’m fond of. My partner got me into Muse quite by accident. She never really pushed anything at me. She simply listened to Muse, and I wondered who wanted to be Queen so badly (this is a joke, but based on reality: Muse is quite vocally indebted to Queen. Who wouldn’t be?). I’ve chosen The 2nd Law for a very simple reason: it’s the album I know best. Between “Supremacy” and “Panic Stations” I knew more than other albums right away.
If you haven’t heard much Muse, they’re a kind of modern prog rock. Not necessarily in sound. They usually have some kind of theme or narrative going, though this album isn’t a full “concept album” from beginning to end. There are two songs, at the end, that constitute a concept together, though.
Let’s just go ahead and get started!
As always, my procedure works this way: I’ll write my first impressions of the piece. When you see the tarot card, that means I’ve flipped it over. I actually don’t know what’s coming during these posts until I am midway through them.
Good news: Muse typically puts their music videos on Youtube, so enjoy.
This song is, rather famously, the tune they wrote to be a Bond song. Some people like it, others think it doesn’t “sound like a Bond song.” I do like it, but all I’ll say is that “Live and Let Die” is an actual Bond song, so what the hell do people think they sound like? So is “The Living Daylights.” Full disclosure: I love both those songs.
The song itself is the statement of an iconoclast who believes malevolent forces have infiltrated our society. Given the title, they are the people in power, and they run the world through “policies” rather than violence.
Honestly, the attempt to make this a Bond song may have served as a distraction. It sounds great, but the song is very vague. Not that I expect Muse to call out politicians or policies they don’t like or anything. The lead has a thorny relationship to politics — he’s said some things that appear to be at odds with the statements in his songs. So what the hell is this song about? Who knows? It’s exciting! The video features swords that are on fire!
3 of Pentacles
Do we get this card a lot? It feels like we get this card a lot. This depicts a craftsman, a priest, and a warrior standing proudly before a triangle emanating beams of light. They seem fairly happy, though the warrior is frowning. This card is typically about making something, and never in isolation. That is to say, the card indicates the work of making something as part of a team. I wonder if that’s why this song doesn’t work as a Bond song — it’s kind of about banding together to challenge the status quo, which Bond never does. He works alone, and for the most part he supports the status quo. This card reminds us that the song is about the structures of power. The priest and the warrior are happily teamed up with the craftsman here. The song sounds like it’s about total rebellion, but it’s really just about changing leadership: “the time has come to destroy your supremacy.” It’s about removing someone from power, not changing the structures of power itself.
The first thing that strikes me, immediately, is that this song offloads responsibility for shitty behavior. The singer is realizing how important a romantic partner is to them, but they have had a history of fighting. The fights aren’t crazy, though, and neither is the singer: the madness was external, “keeping [them] afloat” and swallowing the singer whole. That’s, um, not the best way to think about things like this.
I should try to take the song on its own donnée, of course. This song is probably supposed to be romantic, not an example of avoidance. But I just checked in with my partner, and I’m not the only one who thinks this song is weird.
Her response was that the song should be a duet, because then it could be the thoughts of both partners in the relationship. It would be more balanced that way.
Knight of Swords
Traditionally, this card portrays the restless mind, aroused by thoughts of offense and defense, storming around searching for a target to pounce on. He often feels slighted, has a chip on his shoulder and bristles with a hostile attitude. His usual method is to look for someone to blame for his irritation.
Seriously. This song is a guy externalizing all his negative feelings. Look. Let’s real talk here. I was this guy for a long time. In times of stress, I still can be. It sucks, and it’s something I’m working on. It’s likely why I’m so sensitive about this issue in the song. I can’t add a lot to what the summary says above. Dang.
If you don’t typically watch the videos I post here, do yourself a favor and watch this one. It’s definitely my favorite video that Muse has produced. It’s like Macklemore made a sentai team.
The song itself is a great version of the “clarion call to fight and fuck shit up.” This song would work in a sentai show, or maybe a shounen fighting show. “Get up and commit /
Show the power trapped within…” The song exhorts the listener to take control, so the overt meaning is not just to stand up and fight, but to take control of situations. So the “panic station” is the point at which we are no longer in control.
I wonder if that’s why I love Muse so much and still stop and wonder “what?” sometimes — being in control at all times is not necessary, but it seems to be a thing that this album, at least, is setting up as important.
Knight of Cups
Here’s another knight. Knights are about running out and getting excited and trying to do things. In the previous song, that was mentally going out and looking for problems — if the problems are internal, they must have some external source. In this case, the issue is emotional.
If the knight of emotions is running out and looking for something to do, then they must be ready for anything. Emotions are represented by water in a traditional tarot deck because they can be placid or they can be overwhelming. In this card, the knight’s horse carefully steps over a stream, navigating the waters. This knight is emotionally healthy, and is able, in the context of the song, to draw on their feelings to act in the world. The “panic station” is an extreme, but the “fighter’s emotions aren’t at an extreme: they know what has to be done and, despite their dire straits, do it.
Can you believe we’ve done three whole songs and we’re done already? It’s true though! Come back next time for more of my… musings.