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Maniac vs. Muse or, What Defines Rock Music I’m More Likely to Enjoy?


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Maniac vs. Muse or, What Defines Rock Music I’m More Likely to Enjoy?

What’s up, peeps? For this project, I’m going to try to get into the long-running UK rock band Muse, a group who I’ve always seen as one of the “Big 3” of mainstream British rock–Muse, Radiohead, and Coldplay–but who I’ve had less interest in listening to than the latter two for quite some time now.

However, one of our fellow SBCers, HawkbitAlpha, is trying very hard to get me into Muse, to the extent of sharing a live video of the band performing one of their biggest hits “Knights of Cydonia,” and…I can’t say I was too impressed with the song. My comments towards it consisted of “I get the appeal, but it’s not for me” and even “I guess I don’t like rock music that actually rocks,” which now has me wanting to interrogate what “rock music that actually rocks” even means.

To this extent, I do want to make a good-faith effort towards getting into and appreciating Muse’s music for what it is, but I’m going to do it on my terms. Those terms being: listening to every one of their studio albums, from 1999’s Showbiz to 2022’s Will of the People, in chronological order, which is the usual way I’ve tried to become a fan of a particular band or musician for the better part of a decade now.

With enough preamble out of the way, let’s get this party started!

Showbiz (1999)

1: Sunburn [8.5/10]

2: Muscle Museum [8/10]

3: Fillip [9.5/10]

4: Falling Down [8/10]

5: Cave [9/10]

6: Showbiz [9.5/10]

7: Unintended [7.5/10]

8: Uno [10/10]

9: Sober [8.5/10]

10: Escape [8/10]

11: Overdue [8.5/10]

12: Hate This and I’ll Love You [9/10]



Review: So, how does Muse’s 1999 debut album hold up? Pretty darn well, surprisingly enough! While Matt Bellamy’s vocals at the beginning of “Sunburn” did make me wince because of their perceived similarity to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s, I will admit that Bellamy does have a vocal style of his own: a fiery, passionate ball of angst, whereas Yorke’s vocal angst is more neurotic and detached. But damn, Matt Bellamy can sing, even if what he’s singing isn’t exactly the most unique stuff in the world. To be honest, I genuinely think the lyrics on this album are kind of generic and if it wasn’t for Bellamy’s vocal charisma and passion, I would have been a lot harsher on this album than I ended up being. 


What about the actual music, though? From what I’ve heard on this album, Muse seems to have very much been a cohesive unit from the start; every instrument–from searing guitar riffs, heavy bass lines, and pounding drums–is given a chance to shine on many of the songs here. My favorite songs on the album–“Uno” and “Filip” in particular–have this sort of gothic “doomed romantic” feel to the chords and melodies, the latter song with its twinkling pianos and the former with its seemingly tango-inspired cadence. And these tracks ROCK. HARD. Other songs in this vein like “Cave” and the title track are where Muse play to their strengths on this album and seem like the beginnings of their core sound.


Where I do think the album falters is on the slower songs like “Falling Down” and “Undecided.” The former is where I think some comparison to the OK Computer sadboys is warranted, mostly because it just sounds like a version of the closer from OK Computer, “The Tourist,” without any of the majestic synths and yes, singing, even if “Falling Down” goes down easy. “Undecided,” on the other hand, seems like an attempt at a romantic acoustic ballad that doesn’t really do much for me personally even if executed well on a technical level. 

While I wouldn’t call Showbiz an all-time favorite, I do think it’s a promising start to what seems like a diverse, if not always crowd-pleasing, career in alternative rock (spoilers: I have not heard good things about Muse from 2016’s Drones onwards, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it).


Final score: 8.6/10 (B)


UP NEXT: Origin of Symmetry (2001)

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