Ahhh, Placebo. However much hype they get from the NME and Kerrang types, they always seem to fall off the radar to the "in thing" at the time. Whether it's the seemingly untalented "indie" lot of 2003 during the band's triumphant return with Sleeping With Ghosts
, or this long overdue album losing out airplay to the emo of 2006, it seems Placebo can never find a break. What were once written off a flamboyant party kids have now matured into a style of their own, experimental but traditional punk rock, smart and witty while sounding familiar and taboo. Placebo have become a staple for British rock, yet have never broken out of a mould wrapped around them by the frenzying meedia. However, it might be the 3-year wait for 2003's follow-up that might send them into the limelight of the mainstream, knocking aside the Panic! At The Disco's and Fall Out Boy's.
You see, Meds
feels like the bridge that Sleeping With Ghosts
wanted to be so badly, but fell short. The gap between the band's older and dated but more riskee themes and riffs, and more modernized lyricary and gift to experiment and please with every track has always seemed unreachable for the trio, but maybe it was this long break from touring they needed to clear their heads, and reinvent their sound once more. Brian Moloko said he felt this album was like auditioning their band again, and I believe him. Placebo needed this album to do well to stay in with a chance of sticking around.
"Meds" is a spectacular opener, a poetic track backed by a fast-paced acoustic guitar. Brian sings beautifully "I was confused by the powers that be/Forgetting names and faces/Passers by were looking at me/As if they could erase it", and is sounds perfect against the unusual style of the glam band. And of course, VV from The Kills makes the chorus sound lik a harmony of tragedy and love along with lead vocalist. The song builds up brilliantly as well, turning into a violent and aggressive grundge-like rock song. This first track is followed up by the equally impressive "Infra-Red", a reminder of the Placebo from the older days. It sounds more experimental, and the lyrics "I'm coming up on infra-red/There is no running that can hide you/'Cause I can see in the dark" are more proof this band is one of the best British rock has had to offer for the past 12 years. "Drag" feels typical for this band, featuring repetitive but also memorable lyrics ("You got A's on your algebra tests/I failed and they kept me behind"), and the music is fast but not too boring. It sounds like it could be a single, but it also sounds like a great and poppy melody to stick in your head without being too upfront and obvious.
Now it starts to get weird. "Space Monkey" begins with a piercing harmonic laceed with a pounding drum beat and electronica you can bearly hear. Brian's vocals are quiet and dark, brooding with emotion you can't even make out. Clocking in at just under 4 minutes, this is that experimentation I was talking about, and how Placebo rarely fail with it. While this song is less listener-friendly, it's still appealing and a reminder that this band is grown up now. The slow tempo of this song and the lyrics sound harmonious together, creating the image of glamour and goth they are so known for. This techno-track is followed by the first slower track on the album, "Follow The Cops Back Home", an electric ballad pushed mainly by the lyrics that have worked so well so far. Brian's voice sounds so desperate against a guitar that rings out softly, and they compliment each other brilliantly. The weird effects don't stop here though. "Post-Blue" sounds oddly similar to "Taste In Men", but the chorus on the guitar only add to how catchy this song is. Brian's vocals sound cheerier, and while singing the lyrics, it makes the sound memorable and experimental at the same time. The verses and chorus both include lyrics you'll be mouthing in a few listens. Trust me.
"Because I Want You" is obviously the first single brought out, and although it's weak one, it gives a taster of the older days of Placebo that is recognisable on this album. I guess the simplicity and reptetition of this song makes it a perfect single to tease the MTV2 crowd with, although compared to earlier singles it falls short by a longshot. Like Jimmy Eat World's "Pain", it makes a great single for that album, but it isn't Placebo at their finest, even if it is a single. Two more gems shine brightly after the slightly disappointing single; "Blind" and "Pierrot The Clown". The former song includes a haunting piano track in the verses that fits with the drum beat amazingly, and the chorus feels heavy but downbeat. It's a weird song, but only because it is combining a lot of Placebo's talents they have gained over the years. "Pierrot The Clown" might be the most emotional song on the album, made up distorted drumming and a xylophone. The lyrics are some of Moloko's greatest, showcasing "Saw you crashing around the bay/Never seen you act so shallow/Or look so brown./Remember all the thing's you'd say/How your promises rang hollow/As you threw me into the ground.". It's such a sad song which could be interpretted as a lot of things, but it's my favourite off Meds
s, hands down.
"Broken Promise" sees the second guest appearance in the shape of Michael Stipe of R.E.M., and it doesn't disappoint if you are a fan. A slow decent from the dark piano into a violent orgy of guitar riffs and devilish vocals from Brian and Michael, this song delivers even if you were never keen on Michael's band. The final 3 tracks feel much like the experimental type the album has taken the shape of. "One Of A Kind" is truely that, another mix of a strange effect you won't hear anywhere else and Placebo's well-known guitar style. The last slow song of the album, "In the Cold Light of the Morning", is quite disturbing in both the music and the lyrics. While backed with truely the darkest tone of the album that builds up into an epic musical piece, the lyrics show Brian's eager need to talk about sex in it's more underground and seedy form ("Staring back from the mirrors, a face that you don't recognise/It's a loser a sinner a cock and a dildo's disguise/In the cold light"). It truely scared me the first time I heard it, but you become used to it, and the image in your head desentisizes you to the darker side of the subject. Finally, and fitting, is "A Song to Say Goodbye". A gentle reminder of the rockier side of this band after all those piano and downbeat tracks? Perhaps, but what's certain is this is another catchy number to enjoy. It ends with the lyrics "Before our innocence was lost/You were always one of those blessed with lucky sevens/A song to say goodbye", and makes a MUCH better single than the aforementioned one.
I have listened to this album a few times now, and it's abundantly clear that this is mainly for the newer and more mature fans. While it flirts the idea that Placebo have gotten back to their roots, some things just need to be left in the past, and that's clearly what this band have done. They've moved on, and brought the best of their older music to the 21st century. They make great use of effects and simple chord structures during the faster songs, whereas the slower ones showcase Brian's ever-improving vocabulary and their sensitive side of music. I don't think that gap between Placebo's older and newer style of music will ever be bridged fully, but this is as close as it gets. This is nothing groundbreaking for the trio, but then again Placebo were never really a groundbreaking band. They delivered great rock anthems, and they are mastering that technique with every record. Meds
is no exception, and I'm certain this is one step closer to mainstream acceptance that Placebo are sticking around.
"Pierrot The Clown"
[url]http://www.myspace.com/placebo[/url] (Listen to "Infra-Red" and "Follow The Cops Back Home" from this review)