Muse Showbiz, 1999, Mushroom Records
2. Muscle Museum
4. Falling Down
12. Hate This and I'll Love You
Formed in Devon in 1994, three-piece stadium filling art rock band Muse are Matt Bellamy on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Chris Wolstenholme on bass and Dominic Howard on drums. They were in seperate bands at college before eventually joining together as Rocket Baby Dolls. They changed their name after winning a Battle of the Bands competition and deciding to make a serious attempt at a music career. Showbiz was their debut album.
Sunburn starts so deliciously ominously with piano and drums, when the vocal kicks in it only adds to the mood, the song sets the tone for the album brilliantly. Muscle Museum is supposed to be about the story of the band. The words of the title are the words that come before and after ‘muse’ in the dictionary so it’s meant to symbolise the past and present. It’s atmospheric and the guitars are great on it, the electro intro is also very cool. Fillip is urgent, upbeat and poppy sounding with a dreamy quality to it. Falling Down has a twangy, country style guitar to start, it’s a slow, gentle song about growing up in a small town, so the slight country feel fits perfectly with the lyrics. Guitar heavy Cave is much rockier. Showbiz is perhaps the most ‘Muse-y’ song, with it’s slow drumbeat that builds to a crescendo along with an incredibly high vocal and ending in guitar feedback. Unintended is another delicate track, dominated by guitar picking. The start of Uno is very Nirvana-esque, it then becomes something akin to a Bond theme. It has a bit of a languid, cool vibe. Sober, which is about alcohol addiction feels really fun despite the lyrical content, there is some nice ‘80s style electronica along with strong guitars and drums. It just feels like a really solid rockier pop song. Escape is angry and a little bit punky, it’s a highlight of purer rock on the album for me. Overdue continues this standard rocky vibe. Hate This and I'll Love You feels like it’s inviting us into the next album, it’s definitely a precursor to the definitive Muse sound that fans will know from follow up Origin of Symmetry.
Showbiz feels much more like a standard rock album than Muse’s later work but with elements of what would become their trademark sound. It wasn’t very well received on release, critics saw Muse as no more than Radiohead wannabes. I think I’m supposed to say at this point that this is the sound of a band finding their feet and while it goes without saying that Muse’s later albums are their best and most iconic works, I do think Showbiz stands up on it’s own. I like a more traditionally rocky Muse as much as an orchestral, experimental one. Muscle Museum, Sunburn and Cave also all feel like classic tracks that stand strong with their later stuff to me. Showbiz doesn’t deserve to be written off in comparison to the rest of their work, and it was much better than most of the music coming out of the UK in 1999. The piano and bass are brilliant throughout and through Muse’s first effort is categorically not their best, it’s still very much worth your time.
Having won numerous awards, achieved multiple number one albums and high grossing tours, Muse are now one of the UK’s most successful bands. Matt Bellamy also holds the most rock and roll world record of all time, after destroying 140 guitars on the 2004 Absolution tour he is officially recognised by Guinness World Records as having smashed the most guitars on a single tour.