Placebo are one of the biggest bands of the last ten or so years; you just wouldn’t have realised this because they have avoided being the ‘popular’ thing at any one time. They are constantly in high, if not headlining, positions at festivals and every one of their albums from their debut self-titled to ‘Meds’ (released after this singles collection) has sold well. Like them or not, say what you will about them, but Placebo have longevity. After four successful albums they decided that a greatest hits album was due, and this is it-17 songs available on previous albums and 3 new songs. It is the perfect starting place for those looking to get into one of the biggest bands to come out of England in recent years.
The album is in chronological order so to speak, so it is easy to track what album the track you’re listening to is from. The first few songs are from the band’s first album, the simply titled ‘Placebo’. The album starts brightly with the relatively cheery 36 Degrees
. It is a strong start, and lines such as “Shoulders, toes and knees-I’m 36 degrees” which could potentially sound like too much of a nursery rhyme for children, fit in perfectly. The high-pitched guitar melody in the chorus makes the song particularly interesting, and one of the strongest on the album. The lyrical theme of teenage depression in Teenage Angst
is masked by the simple, yet catchy melodies used to make another infectious song. While these songs are good, if a little timid, it is live staple Nancy Boy
that shines most out of the songs from their 1996 debut. It rocks harder than the rest of the album, and with it’s very addictive chorus is one of the best songs on the collection.
While the songs off their debut were more upbeat, it is with the songs from the ‘Without You I’m Nothing Album’ that Placebo first start to hint at the dark charm that has won them many fans the world over. While Pure Morning
is a dull plod for the listener, Every You, Every Me
is one of the more exciting tracks on the album. While Brian Molko’s voice stays at the same level for the majority of the song, the lyrics are simply brilliant and are about one of the bands favourite lyrical themes, and that is - sex. The music is simple, but does its job well enough, building tension throughout the song. Without You I’m Nothing
is simply boring and even yawn inducing, which make it perfect to sing you to sleep at night, but it would be an uncomfortable sleep, such is the feeling of the song.
A synthesised riff announces the start of Taste In Men
from the ‘Black Market Music’ album. The song uses a lot of repetition in the lyrics that could make it boring, especially with the sometimes deadpan way that they are sung; but it is Placebo’s dark charm that once again pulls you in. It is a charm that makes most of the songs on the album listenable, even if they are a little boring at times. However, on Special K
a deadpan verse, although made interesting by added vocal melodies, leads into a frantic chorus detailing the claustrophobia that can be bought about by drug use.
The guitars and synths on The Bitter End
work well with lyrics about stalking (once again that dark charm that I warned you about) to make the listener feel uncomfortable, and this is done very well and is one of, if not THE strongest song on the album. It’s a shame that other songs from Sleeping With Ghosts
can’t match up to it. This Picture
may be a pretty boring rock song, but is followed by Special Needs
which, while slower than most songs on the album, is an interesting listen as it builds slightly and falls between choruses and verses, and is lyrically very strong. While synthesisers and drum machines have been used throughout the album on some songs, their use has been very slight, but on English Summer Rain
they fully embrace this way of making music even having most of Molko’s vocals sung through a vocoda. It works well, matching the electronic nature of the song, but there are simply not enough ideas used and therefore the track drags after a while.
After the songs that have been already released, come three tracks exclusive to this album. Protégé Moi
starts out with lyrics sung in French before repeated in English. The song translated as ‘protect me’ is mediocre although using a hypnotic rhythm throughout makes it relaxing to listen to. I Do
is predictably about marriage and while not being a great song shows how Placebo have matured. Whereas older songs had a more ‘angsty’ stance on love and sex, this song shows a more mature position on the subject and is a nice change. Placebo’s singles collection concludes with the single used to promote it, and that is Twenty Years
. It is a melancholy end to the album, and this is relevant, as most of it has been downcast anyway. You get the feeling that the song is leading somewhere but it doesn’t and instead fades out somewhat disappointingly.
There are some really good songs on ‘Once More With Feeling’ especially Every You, Every Me
and Nancy Boy
; but the pace remains fairly constant throughout and this can make it dull to listen to, especially when the pace is as dragging as it is here. The softness of the music and the similarities of the tracks can also make songs run into one another a little too much, making it hard to distinguish one track from one another. Lyrically the songs here are very strong, and include some quirky lines that make it interesting but the instrumentation remains fairly uninspiring and this is disappointing. As stated at the start of the review, this is the best album to get into Placebo as it has some of the essential Placebo songs here; it’s just a shame that the less essential tracks let it down.