Placebo
Battle For The Sun


3.5
great

Review

by Ali CONTRIBUTOR (129 Reviews)
June 8th, 2009 | 26 replies | 7,988 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Despite possibly being their weakest yet, Battle For The Sun is another solid release from Placebo.

One of the largest factors that can affect a bands music and its progression over time is the addition or loss of a band member, something that has been proven many times by many artists. Dave Grohl joining Nirvana for instance totally reinvented the band, transforming them from a promising young trio into a powerhouse unit, who went on to become one of the most important bands of their time. Other examples of this include Manic Street Preachers swing to a more commercial sound after the disappearance of Richey Edwards, and Dave Grohl (him again) proving to be the key element behind Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf, his only album with the band, and arguably their best.

British alt-rock trio Placebo went through a change comparable to these when drummer Robert Schultzberg left following the success of their self titled debut album in 1996, being replaced by Steve Hewitt. The lineup change brought about a dark turn in the bands music, with their songs growing less and less accessible and Brain Molko’s lyrics becoming increasingly twisted. Although this change suited the band, many fans grew concerned that another major change lay ahead when Hewitt left in 2008, his replacement being Steve Forrest . Fortunately for those less fond of change, Battle For The Sun, the bands first new material since the switch doesn’t mark such a great shift, although there are certainly ways in which it differs from the rest of Placebo’s back catalogue.

The most obvious of these is the more guitar driven sound the album adopts compared to their earlier work. This is evident right from the off on opener Kitty Litter, which is driven by relentless power chords that characterise much of the rest of the album. This gives much of it a louder and more aggressive sound than most of Placebo’s previous material, making it possibly their most (for use of a better word) normal sounding work to date. As with the bands more recent albums, synths also contribute to most of the songs, but mostly take the backseat to Brian Molko’s guitar. There are a few exceptions to this trend however, such as Bright Lights, which is in fact one of the highlights.

Something else that is obvious right from the start is that the album is going to be a rough ride concerning Molko’s vocals. His voice is one of the most important elements of Placebo’s music, and while it is certainly distinctive, it can at times be a little hard to take, subsequently putting many people off. But even his own fans may find it difficult to stomach some of the tortured wails he lets off here, and they may even leave some exhausted after the opening song. His lyrics on the other hand, while still revolving around the usual themes (sex, loss, failure, etc…) are not so extreme, never reaching their twisted peak as on albums such as Black Market Music.

Another difference from other Placebo albums, (particually the older ones) is the lack of any truly outstanding standouts such as Nancy Boy or Every You Every Me. This is not to say that the songs on Battle For The Sun are bad, they’re not, in fact their isn’t a bad song on it, the material is all just very solid but sadly rarely spectacular. This is not a weakness as such, but it's hard to listen to the album and not feel that it would be greatly improved by a killer single or two, even if they were the best songs by some distance. Instead, the highlights tend to be standard Placebo songs such as Ashtray Heart that bear resemblence to songs the band has written before.

For What It’s Worth, the song that was chosen as the albums lead single is underwhelming, and doesn’t sound much better in the context of the album than it does on its own. It is a safe choice for this position, keeping to a relatively simple verse chorus verse formula that alters little throughout. Perhaps a better choice would have been the aformentioned Bright Lights, as it has a far more catchy melody that is more pleasant on the ear than For What It’s Worth’s painfully unimaginative chorus. The title track was also released prior to the album, and although being a little repetative was a pretty good taster, though it’s unlikely to be remembered as a Placebo classic. The closest they come to one of those is Speak In Tongues, the anthemic nature of which will probably see it remain a staple in future live sets.

Despite its obvious flaws, Battle For The Sun is another solid album from Placebo, and should see them continue with their mainstream success on mainland Europe. While it doesn’t mark a huge departure from their earlier sound, the band is showing signs of progression, but not enough to put off their existing fanbase, which is surprisingly large, especially in France. This loyal following hasn’t ammassed for nothing, and the fact that this may well be Placebo’s weakest album yet is testament to the strength and consistency of their back catalogue.

Recommended Tracks
Ashtray Heart
Breathe Underwater
Battle For The Sun
Speak In Tongues
Bright Lights



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user ratings (249)
Chart.
3.1
good
other reviews of this album
Adam Knott EMERITUS (3)
...Eclipsed....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
June 8th 2009



8221 Comments


good review, but I don't like the band at all and I especially dislike Molko's voice (like you said it is hard to get into for some). A couple of small letter mistakes which you could edit, but all in all this is a nice, easy read. You sir have my vote!

Digging: Metsatoll - Karjajuht

PuddleSwimmer
June 8th 2009



1457 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What a good-looking review
Nice job

gaslightanthem
June 8th 2009



5209 Comments


a friend in need's a friend indeed

a friend with weed is better

a friend with breasts and all the rest

a friend who's dressed in leather



Pure Morning is one of the best songs ever. Band is pretty good will probably check this out eventually.

PuddleSwimmer
June 8th 2009



1457 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pure Morning is great as is Post Blue

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
June 8th 2009



7237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

thanks guys. like i said, its probably their worst yet, but if you're a fan then its still worth getting. will edit also.

Altmer
June 8th 2009



5652 Comments


i have heard like three songs i want an album what to spend my money on

mutatedfreek
June 8th 2009



7351 Comments


Nice review Ali, I find this band hit and miss, some tracks are great others kinda suck.

although there are certainly ways in which it differs from the rest of Plcaebo’s back catalogue.


album yet is testament to the strength and consistancy of their back catalogue.


Just a couple of general spelling mistakes that need fixing. THere are others as well so maybe you might want to just put it through a spell checker.

Knott-
Emeritus
June 8th 2009



10194 Comments


yah good review we basically have the same opinions on this except i hate ashtray heart

Gyromania
June 8th 2009



14653 Comments


Nice review, I liked their last album well enough. Might look into this.

foreverendeared
June 8th 2009



14678 Comments


my ex was obsessed with this band. that kinda turned me off to them

Knott-
Emeritus
June 8th 2009



10194 Comments


meds is one of my favourite albums everrrrrrrrr

Douglas
June 8th 2009



8984 Comments


Awesome job on the feature dude

Gyromania
June 8th 2009



14653 Comments


I hope to one day get something featured. Kind of hard to do when I'm reviewing game soundtracks though, haha.

imperfecktion
June 8th 2009



11 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's a good album- but that's it.

Captain North
June 10th 2009



6743 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I found the title track hideously boring and repetative.

bloc
June 10th 2009



34499 Comments


album cover is so so so bad

Digging: He Is Legend - I Am Hollywood

PuddleSwimmer
June 12th 2009



1457 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For What It's Worth, Julien, and The Never-Ending Why are actually pretty good

Knott-
Emeritus
June 12th 2009



10194 Comments


i think the best track is the closer or Bright Lights

EPPY
June 20th 2009



3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review Ali. I'm sitting write now listening to the album and think you nailed it. I became a huge fan of Placebo ever since I first heard 36 Degrees back in 1996 (never cared for Nancy Boy though) and that's coming from a metal head that listens to the likes of Overkill and King Diamond. You're dead on about the peak on Black Market Music. The track Taste in Men is a great example of a "knock your socks off" sounding track unlike anything I had or have since heard. It was so good that a car commercial used it several years ago. That type of track is missing on Battle for the Sun. Placebo is a unique band and Brian Molko is an extremely talented musician, as is Stefan Olsdal. What I love most about Placebo is that they've managed to stay true to their original style and sound yet still have managed to progress musically. Placebo sound likes Placebo, even when they've released a less than brilliant but solid radio friendly album. Let's hope they always stay hungry and don't become too complacent as their career comes closer and closer to huge commercial success. They haven't disappointed me yet which isn't something I can say about the many other bands I've followed over the years.

Titan50
June 20th 2009



4588 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

It was so good that a car commercial used it several years ago.


That's never usually a good thing



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