Placebo are - as it was best put - the Goth Nirvana. though, strictly speaking, they're not really a Goth band. lying somewhere between Glam and Pop-Rock, Placebo are one of the biggest bands of the past 9 years. and what do we like to hear from big current bands (espscially those favoured by such rock'n'roll legends as David Bowie)? thats right: a new album.
Strictly speaking, Sleeping With Ghosts isn't anything new for Placebo, but at the same time it sounds completely different to any of the bands previous releases. and that's because it sticks closest to the Placebo formula: the first (Self-titled) album was the trademark dirty-sounding first album. but with time cam refinement. this was evident on Without You I'm Nothing, which seemed to dissapear a lot more into dissonant rock, and Black Market Music, which, while closer to the mark, was riddled with electronics and (*gasp!*) rap.
but finally, the band have pulled together an album where almost every song is pure Placebo: glammed-up, doped-out, and just a little fruity here and there.
the opening track, Bulletproof (which shall forever live in the shadow of the live version) is an instrumental, something new for the band. the album gets on with it, though: the first single, "This Picture" is full of Brian Molko attitude. as he speaks the intro (sounding jaded and dissonant, like all good rock stars should) "and late at night while on all fours, she used to watch me kiss the floor" now i don't know any other band you could attatch those lyrics to.
the title track is a slow and powerful synth-based song, sounding at times almost like a remix of itself, and certainly not a highlight of the album. the single The Bitter End cuts back to basics, a single chord rings out during the verses, and both Stefan and Steve demonstrate their brilliant technical ability. Brian Molko's "instinctive poetry" lyrics are here again, and they simply seem to fall into place, as though there could be no other word to fit the line (ala "every you every me").
Something Rotten is a mellow but brooding track, sounding like the anthem to a drunk and smoking rock star pondering a problem in their way (or, as the lyrics may suggest, a missed love one). Plasticine is the most guitar-heavy track so far, with a simple meaning and a fun chorus. the twin-guitar parts are something that Brian and Stefan are particularly good at, and the good news is that this song has topped most of the guitar parts by the band so far.
Spacial Needs, yet another single, starts off sounding reminiscent but still up-tempo. lyrically, it had brilliant potential to be a dark-sounding song, but the band just cant get away from old habits and the chorus kicks in, poppy and energetic as ever.
Protect Me From What I Want (or Protege Moi, in french) is another song which will simply never live up to the live performance on the Soulmates Never Die DVD.
the album ends on a note that i never thought would come: a ballad. Centrefolds is a simple little piano piece (or at least it starts that way: cant they just leave a song without a full band section?!?!) and is quite easily the most emotive song on the album. powerful, and not without a Placebo twist of glam, this is a standout track on the album.
Sleeping With Ghosts doesnt hail anything new for placebo, but it does keep the faith that they're gonna continue making quality music for quite some time.