Showbiz

The British trio Muse is equal parts punk and prog rock. Like most prog rockers, Muse approach their work like opera, from their love of huge song structures to lead singer Matthew Bellamy's soprano arias. Between that and the fact that Muse — whose members are all around twenty years old — are guided by John Leckie (producer of Radiohead's The Bends), it's easy to dismiss them as talented Radiohead clones. Their debut, Showbiz, matches Thom Yorke's penchant for majestic agony — screams and the word self-destruction pepper the title track — but with an edge that's quirkier and decidedly more ragged than their elders'. "Uno" mixes a tango beat with power chords; the single "Muscle Museum" lays Latin guitar and piercing distortion over a stately, waddling bass line. Acoustic numbers such as "Unintended" serve up unabashed romanticism like a tender truffle. Showbiz is no maverick masterstroke, but it is passionate and loud and also unexpectedly gentle — a great first shot from three guys barely old enough to drink on their U.S. tour.

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