Placebo – [Album]

Saturday, 13 June 2009

It's been eleven years since Placebo struck platinum with “Pure Morning” – essentially a celebration of substance abuse, STDs and the morning after – and then promptly vanished from sight. For those that weren't sure, the reason it happened was because the band was just too novel for its own good; they looked like Jane's Addiction (or tried to) but sounded about as masculine as the Violent Femmes backed with a wall of synthesizers and, while there has been no shortage of singles (did you know that the releases since Without You I'm Nothing – the one that had “Pure Morning” on it – yielded fifteen singles?) nothing has really caught so well and interest in the band has faded to nothing.

Placebo needed a miracle or, to paraphrase the opening track from Battle For The Sun, a new skin that wasn't quite so slippery or easy to forget.

Looks like they found it.

There's almost no recognizing Placebo as the same band performing these thirteen songs because, for the first time, it actually sounds like they're playing with a set; from the opening crunch of “Kitty Litter,” Placebo is recast as a much more forceful outfit – kind of like a less prog-informed Rush – as Brian Molko sings far more self-assuredly and the band ditches the electro atmospherics and just plows through with no concern paid to delicacy. It's made all the more attractive by the fact that it's obviously a willful act; no one's holding back here giving the impression that they're just sick of being ignored.

With that statement made and notice given, Placebo tramples its way through songs like “Ashtray Heart” (which gives a nod to the band's earliest beginnings), “For What It's Worth,” “Devil In The Details” and the title track with a set that doesn't falter, doesn't soften up, and actually manages to prove those that figured the band's fashion was flushed wrong. The results are something like what one might expect a jam featuring members of both Depeche Mode and The Cure to yield, but made all the better by the fact that it's obviously Placebo is simply approaching music-making realistically – like working class players – and they wear it incredibly well.

Surprisingly, the band actually pushes harder and more forcefully the further they go into the record too. Particularly on songs like “The Never-Ending Why,” “Julien” and “ Happy You're Gone,” Placebo makes listeners want to stand up and cheer very unfashionably as they blow the roof off their own house and shatter every previously held opinion of them. Not many bands (particularly now) can say they're able to do that and still have those paying attention begging for more, but Placebo can.

That's the catch though, who's going to hear it? After such a tepid career arc, Placebo is staring down a long line of indifference and they're in a position where they'll have to test how open-minded the taste-makers are. Battle For The Sun deserves attention genuinely, but the verdict on whether they get any remains out. Here's hoping the band gets some though, and once again enjoys that warm spot in that sun.


Placebo Online

Placebo myspace


Battle For The Sun
is out now and available here on Amazon .

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