It’s no coincidence that this debut album fascinates me more than anything since the debut of Bush with Sixteen Stone . For instance, Muse producer John Leckie, in the golden age of punk, also produced the master work Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts by the Adverts, another incident of beautiful noise.
Soft piano glissandos get crushed by heavy handed guitar distortions of reality on the opener, “Sunburn,” which starts off Showbiz with a bang, not a whimper. Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Matt Bellamy imparts just the right tone of paranoia and complicity in the unfairness of life in his maniacal and compellingly beautiful vocals. His Mellotron organ playing on current alternative radio smash “Muscle Museum” stands out, too. Lyrics such as “come waste your millions here” certainly provide the right touch of irony for today’s rock n’ roll. In “Falling Down,” “fifteen thousand people scream,” and in the title track, “visions of greed you wallow.” Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard provide a quite solid rhythm section throughout. “Falling Down” has to be one of the most agonized misplaced affection songs ever. He can’t forget his lover, but he knows he’s found what he’s looking for, and it’s definitely not her. And it’s also too late for the town they live in, which “no one’s going to save.” “Cave” seems to bring xenophobia and romance together in a frightening way. He’s inviting a guest in only to “…burn your heart away/ so you’ll never hear a single word I say/ don’t ever come my way.”
This record’s full of surprises. There are soft acoustic passages intertwined with ripping nylon electric guitar chords. It lives up to song titles like “Hate This and I’ll Love You.” “Sober,” a paean to all types of liquor from Royal Canadian Brandy to Wild Turkey, contains the line, “It stands to reason/That you would turn on me/It burns inside of me.”
Truly, one of the best debut albums of 1999.