Review Summary: Some of Muse’s earlier versions similar to Showbiz, Origin of Symmetry, and Absolution that diligent Muse fans would be likely to enjoy.
Most people who like alternative rock should know Muse. A group that rose out of an early prog rock form, into a Radiohead-type, and into a variety based rock form we know today. From that simple statement, comes the new question: where did they truly start?
Muse wasn’t exactly the alt/indie group they are today and they were definitely not the trademark pop rock group they became in the 2010s. In the 1990s, Muse had a way different influence to what they actually were writing, playing, and producing in the music world. They displayed a more alternative progressive punk genre in their music, as can be heard through one of the early known demos, the Newton Abbot Demo, made in 1996/1997.
When looking for differences between the demo and later studio albums, one big difference came to mind: new pianos or keyboards. This really erases the postmodern perspective that Muse had started a few years later, almost drawing in more of a rougher form of rock. It almost seems as if the group had been originally going in the direction of alt punk rock for a while. This could’ve easily changed the way the sounded and the means they played. Why? Because Muse is dominated by modern keyboard technology and other computerized forms of music in a certain dose, no matter what album you pick. Is this bad? Not necessary. Taking away the keyboards gives The Newton Abbot Demo a more raw perspective of what actually happens in any particular song and gives more room for further analyzing. That is where the musicians come into the picture.
Looking at each member, you’ll find that Muse sounded the most hard rock it would ever. Unlike in later installments, Bellamy’s guitar riffs along with Chris’s bass lines sound a little dirtier in this demo. Dominic also sounds more powerful on the drums in this demo than any album after Black Holes and Revelations. But the most noticeable part should be Bellamy’s vocals. They don’t sound as developed, and almost a little rougher, as if he almost wanted to be a punk star. This once again could’ve easily changed the direction of what genre Muse worked with. So, why did Muse decide to sound sleeker and more sophisticated later into their career?
The direction they were currently in, Math Bellamy had mentioned was a path he didn’t like as much as Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard did. So, in their first studio album, Showbiz, they decided to hover away from their pre-punk days. This brings up a new question: was the old demo’s direction of the punk genre not right? Not necessarily. Muse would’ve just sounded a little different. They would continue to move further down a different path to god knows where. This disposition leads to an answer that some people expected and others didn’t: Muse could’ve sounded better or worse. There was no real direction in the Newton Abbot Demo because of certain songs.
There are particular songs that do hint the upcoming path of Showbiz and Origin of Symmetry. Those examples are Agitated, and Balloonatic are examples of similar arcs to Crazy Music and Micro Cuts in Origin of Symmetry. Another example is Sober, which would later appear in different forms in extended plays and even Showbiz itself. These songs’ parallels are signs in Muse’s shift into alternative and indie rock.
And so, to sum things up, The Newton Abbot Demo was an example of the former nature Muse exhibited. It shows a possible route into punk and prog while showing other signs that they were actually entering the alternative/indie battlefront. If anything, a demo like this is a rarity that diligent Muse fans would be able to enjoy relatively well and dive deeper into Muse’s history in the past.