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Muse - Showbiz CD (album) cover

SHOWBIZ

Muse

 

Prog Related

3.10 | 277 ratings

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R-A-N-M-A
2 stars While a fan of a good deal of their work, I really find Muse to be a hard band to break into. Far too much of their work sounds the same. I'll give them credit they know what works for them and lightning has certainly struck more than once. While their singles tend to err on the side of excellent, the extra stuff tends to fall flat. Their albums tend to be inhabited by a few tall flowers and a lot of brush.

Showbiz is Muse's first album, and it established them as a band with talent and potential. However, it also happened (necessarily) before Muse became the dependable hit makers we know them as today. The result is, the tall flowers are missing and we're left with the brush.

The lead track on Showbiz is Sunburn. It is notable for its rolling piano intro which would go on to become one of the bands staples. When accompanied by guitar is has a bit of a surreal feel too it, like the music is coming from some impossible single instrument. Sunburn is also archetypical of one of Muse's other noteworthy qualities: to me, they sound like they are perpetually auditioning to play the next James Bond song. Their music is stylish and dark, and would probably be well served by shadow-babe accompaniment. Even the cover artwork is in that vein. By the time they get to Black Holes and Revelations I think they've passed the audition. Perhaps if the Broccolis give them a go at it, they'll be able to move on.

After Sunburn is Muscle Museum. The first in a long string of generic pieces by Muse; the piano is lifeless, the vocals are whiney and everything else is just so much noise. It is a complete throw away, at least to this humbly opinionated listener. The follow up is Filip which starts off in the same noisy manner, just slightly more upbeat. It does take a turn for the slightly more interesting during the piano/vocal interlude, only to have that burn up on re-entry to the main chorus. Filip is better than Muscle Museum, but neither is particularly exceptional.

Falling Down, begins as a soft bluesy number, almost channelling a little Jack White. As it goes on the momentum ebbs are flows reaching a few ragged peaks along the course. This isn't the best of Muse's work, but I think it's the kind of music they should make a little more often. It's stripped down compared to the typical high production and the blues are well suited for their moody idiom. For my tastes, Falling down is as good as Showbiz manages to get and Cave makes for a good counterpoint. It's noisy and not all that original. All the emotion that felt genuine on Falling Down comes off as manufactured on Cave; which is more representative of the general sound of the album. I don't want to be too harsh on Cave itself though, because I do think it is stronger than any of the other generic tracks. It's strongest asset is the piano which takes a more prominent role in the latter half.

After Cave is the the title track, and Showbiz itself isn't a terribly remarkable. The falsetto is good and the heavier portions are indicative of some of their later better work. On the whole I would say it's an average Muse track; in the scope of Showbiz the album however it in the upper 50%. The follow up track is Unintended. It is the softest piece on the album; a bit forgettable to me. I am not very familiar with Radiohead's work, but from what I do know. It may be partially to blame for the accusations that Muse, at this point in their career was ripping them off.

Uno has a dissonant start which leads into another James Bond audition track. I don't have too much to say about it. It's generic central. It does alternate loud and soft, however it does not qualify as progressive rock in any sense. Luckily, the far more intriguing Sober is next. The singing is a little lacking and completely unintelligible at times and the guitar can be nothing but background fuzz, but the bass sounds really good up front the band sounds tighter and sonically more exploratory. Things take a turn for the slow and dull again on Escape. It feels more like a throwback to the grunge era than anything else. For some this might be appreciated. I'm not a fan however; lots of fuzziness, muddy vocals and nothing special from the rhythm section.

Overdue is another short pop-rock track. It's more upbeat than a good many of the songs so I'll give it some credit.

The closer is Hate This & I'll Love You. It's another track with a good deal of blue influence, but it isn't executed as well as Falling Down. It's way too whiney for me on the whole. A few moments do stick out above the muck though.

For a first effort, I'd say Showbiz isn't too bad. By the sounds of it, Muse was still feeling things out and had not really fully developed their sound. The structure is certainly there, but the theatricality and creativity are not. They tread over a lot of similar ground. It isn't a very clean sounding album, lots of loose ends. It doesn't sound like they'd been out of the garage too long at this point. For fans of the band and those who in search of a raw sound and aren't looking for anything terribly complex this would be up you're alley. Showbiz has about all the complex emotionality of a 16 year old. It's all played in a minor key and as many of the lyrics are spat as sang. Pretty Gloomy : D. Showbiz is not really an album for me.

Two out of Five

R-A-N-M-A | 2/5 |

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