Showbiz seems like an apt title for Muse's debut album. The album screams for commercial success. Muse, formed in 1995 and undergoing more than a few name changes along the way, finally hit their first major release with Showbiz, and it paved the way for their future as becoming one of the most prominent bands in England and later, the world. Showbiz, although the Muse debut, is one of their most experimental albums as well, showcasing all kinds of sounds that they either abandoned or expanded upon in the future.
Showbiz finds young, restless musicians from Devonshire, England ready to take the world by storm. However, their inexperience makes for some faults in this album. Matt Bellamy, on this album, draws many critics to draw Radiohead comparisons. The band never reaches the point of being a "Radiohead clone," but Matt struggles to find his own unique voice. Given, he is much more aggressive where Yorke is more melancholic, but sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two. However, the music sounds more akin to Nirvana than Radiohead. The difference between Muse and Nirvana is that Muse are much better musicians on their instruments. Still, Showbiz shows Muse playing in typical ABABCB song formats for the most part. It wouldn't be until Origin of Symmetry when Muse discovered their ability to create utterly epic music with only 3 members.
However, some of Muse's best tracks are on the album, most noticeably the album opener, Sunburn. Sunburn opens with Matt playing a fast piano line and Dom playing one of his better drum beats. Matt sings a verse over this riff, in his medium range. The song enters the prechorus with a slight variation on the piano line, inverting the intervals. The chorus is a bit heavier, trading piano for distorted power chords. However, this is short and the song enters the second verse. The piano line is varied once more, much better and uplifting in the second variation. Following the second chorus, the drums get heavier and Matt an effect filled guitar solo. He climbs to extremely high ranges on the fretboard, screaming across the speakers like a piccolo. The reprise of the chorus has a much more intense feel, with the lyrics slightly altered. After two times through the chorus, the piano line is altered again, glissing all over the upper half of the piano.
The next song, one of Muse's first singles and definitely their simplest, opens with a two note bassline. Dom plays a simple sixteenth drum beat. Matt's riff is simple, yet sounds very cool and somewhat bluesy next to the bassline. Matt sings a bit restrained held back in the chorus. Huge palm muted chords come across and build up extremely well to the climatic chorus, Matt reaches close to screaming, a tad bit of raspiness coming across through his voice. Entering the second verse, Dom drops off the snare for a measure. The lyrics are somewhat nonsense, with Matt singing "I have played in every toilet, but you still want to spoil it." The verse and chorus continue just as they did. Following the second chorus, a guitar solo enters, sounding exactly like Matt in his falsetto at first. The guitar solo is pretty good for Matt, especially in studio versions. The song gets more intense as piano enters to comp the chords along with Chris. The song ends with a held guitar note.
Another standout and a departure for Muse is the slow building title track, Showbiz. Chris plays a nylon bass for this song. The song opens with tribal drums and bass. Matt plays very quiet guitar as he sings the verse. The lyrics appear to be about finally letting emotions let loose and standing up for what you believe even if it means oppression. The chorus slowly builds, only foreshadowing for what is to come. The song picks a mild bit of intensity while Matt plays the main melodic line on his guitar. Following the second verse, Matt sings the chorus up an octave and the drums enter a full out rock beat. Chris switches back to an electric bass. Matt plays a variation on his main melodic vocal line on his guitar he sings it, getting more and more aggressive. Another chorus comes across, even more intense. A full out guitar solo follows, although not very good. Matt's strategy has always been to leave space in for a huge solo when he plays live. The band plays the chorus riff while Matt ahhs higher and higher. He sings the highest he will on the entire album, amazingly not losing any volume or aggression. The song fades out on the tribal beat from the intro.
Showbiz laid a great path for Muse to follow, getting all kinds of rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Garnering the attention of many small festivals, Muse began playing worldwide as a relatively unknown band. Slowly, they became more and more popular, and their growth continues to this day. Showbiz is a glimpse back at when Muse were given the chance to make or break their career, and they certainly did a fine job.