Does Muse know what a song is? There's admittedly some prior evidence that the three kings of grandimediocrity do, but then there's also "Survival," the band's new, "official" song for the 2012 London Olympics, which sounds less like a thoughtfully arranged piece of music and more like random mash-up of Queen outtakes and clips from the soundtracks to Michael Bay movies. If you can dream a rock anthem element, it's here: Sky's-gonna-fall "Ooooaaaahhh"-ing from a big chorus of voices, Kodak-moment orchestral trim, lots and lots of palm-muted guitar riffs -- oh, and in a gold-medal-worthy feat of literal-mindedness, Matt Bellamy seething "I'm gonna win, yes, I'm gonna win!" (It's the Olympics, and he's gonna win -- get it?)
The whole thing gets going with a righteously annoying fit of Queen-esque piano bounce, as if Muse started this thing off under the ludicrous fantasy that it could be both their "Bohemian Rhapsody" and their "We Are the Champions" in one. Which isn't the first of this band's deluded ambitions. But instead of, like, writing a real song, with parts that do something, and some lyrics you could get stuck in your head, and, you know, a melody, Muse just piled all its big shiny sounds onto each other into one long, blumbering escalation. When, after three eons, the climax does arrive -- Bellamy: "I'm gonna [falsetto] wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin" -- it feels about as satisfying as paying taxes. You knew something was going to happen, and you had a pretty idea what it was, and then it finally came, and there was no surprise, just a guy screeching in bad falsetto like he's trying out for the opera or something.
All of this wouldn't quite be so upsetting if this weren't the official Olympic song -- the thing all audio-enabled humans on Planet Earth will be subjected to a minimum of four times per day between July 27 and Aug. 12. Sigh. Perhaps, though, there's an upside: This year, when the Olympics are over, when your appetite for athletic triumph has been sated forty-seven times over, and when your nausea at Muse's "Survival" has peaked, you won't have had an actual song ruined for you: Just a very loud aggregation of dramatic noises.