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Placebo - Battle for the Sun (2009)
Producer: David Bottrill
Battle for the Sun
For What It's Worth
Devil in the Details
Speak In Tongues
The Never-Ending Why
Happy You're Gone
Kings of Medicine
Released in 2009, Battle for the Sun is the sixth studio album by Placebo. The three year wait since previous record and career high-point, Meds, had been a long one for the fans. When at the start of 2009 Brian Molko announced that Placebo had finally recorded their new album and planned to release it in the summer, everyone rejoiced.
And we were all to go home as happy little Placebites, right?
I bring with me news of a crushing displeasure: Battle for the Sun is tremendously disappointing, particularly on first listen. The signs for an impending dissatisfaction were all there, we only had to take notice. A lot of fans were dismayed at the exit of drummer Steve Hewitt in 2007. To many, this was a cause for alarm, and for some it had been reason enough to stop following the great 'bo on their journey. I, though, had sensed something far more worrying than a change of drummer, something potentially irredeemable and calamitous.
My children, gather around, and listen to the story of a band giving in to temptation.
Very gradually, over the years, Placebo were incorporating more 'commercial' elements into their work. This is fair enough, as up to this point in time it had served a purpose to balance what was already there - gratifying originality. I should have seen it coming, but I just didn't expect Brian Molko to fully commit to the mainstream beast and release such a laborious set of songs as this. It pains me to say it, but with this release Placebo have become just another alternative rock band. The production, the songwriting, the majority of the lyrics - and whatever else - it has all been tarnished by Placebo giving in to the conventional. Brian, the dream is over.
Kitty Litter, with its outwardly decadent introduction of 'angry' guitars and its borrowed theatrics from apparently every other artist in the alternative rock scene, winds up a chronic lesson in the unbearable. Kitty Litter pretty much sums itself up via its title (although, Used Kitty Litter may have been more apt). Rest those vocal chords, Brian, at least until you have something worth singing about. Just as arduous is Ashtray Heart. Getting its title from Placebo's original name at their inception, it would have done well to stay dead and buried along with its origins.
It's not all bad, though. Devil in the Details is one of the record's highpoints and can easily stand tall alongside Meds' best songs. Full of bombast and shot through with a knowing set of juvenile, angsty lyrics, Devil in the Details is Brian Molko at his swaggering best, "I got the devil in the details, and he's gonna teach me wrong from right... that f*cking pantomime, the devil in the details!" It's the few moments like this which almost make up for the rest of the album's shattering inadequacy.
Similarly noteworthy is Speaking in Tongues. "Kitty came back home from on the island," recollects Molko, "but Kitty came back without a name. She and me's a history of violence... I burn to touch her just the same." Then, just as a phoenix would emerge from a sweltering cloud of erupting ember and ash, Molko throttles his vocal chords, surfaces from the ether, and in one of his more flattering vocal performances pronounces, "So we both can speak in tongues, oooooooohhh!"
Julien - on first impression the album's worst track - begins as little more than an electronic experiment. Its introduction recalls the inane fodder which clogs up the airways in Spanish gay clubs (I just know these things), where a little man sporting a medallion, clutching a cocktail with a tiny umbrella in it, asks you out on a date. It makes Basshunter look as threatening as the antichrist in full flight. Ultimately, though, stick with it, and it develops into a cautionary tale of woe ("You can run but you can't hide!"), replete with a great string section and sizzling guitars.
The slow ballads, which were a highpoint on Meds, no longer crackle with the bitter resentment which had carried them previously. A couple of tracks in particular, Happy You're Gone and Come Undone, are meagre parodies of a songwriting style that Molko had very almost perfected three years earlier. If only Molko would wake up and smell what he is shovelling. Although, something tells me he knows his product better than he likes us to think. See Come Undone: "You don't know how you're coming across... It's a shame (that) on you the irony is lost" A shame, indeed.
The album closer - part acoustic, part digital/piano/electric ballad - Kings of Medicine, leaves behind a sweet taste in your mouth. Lyrically, it's the best song on Battle for the Sun, while the emotional pull is great, "Don't leave me here to pass through time, without a map or road sign. Don't leave me here, my guiding light!" Even now, when Molko hits those high notes and reaches deep inside his broken heart for the shrill cries of discontentment, he has few rivals where poignancy is concerned. The song begins very softly and eventually develops into a true climatic event, reaching a proper, exhilarating crescendo, before respite is provided by the convivial comedown.
So there you have Battle for the Sun. It's a mixed bag, certainly. I started out writing a negative review, but ended up with a more balanced opinion than I had initially intended. There's a lot to like here, only a fool would deny this. It's just a shame that Placebo had to release an album unevenly weighed down by just as many stinkers as it has winners. Still, the winners are worth fighting for.
Read more reviews at www.danielkempreviews.co.uk
2009 saw a favourite band of mine Placebo reappear on the music scene with their sixth studio offering Battle for the Sun. As a long time fan I wasted no time in getting myself a copy, and after seeing great reviews for it in the music press I was eager to give it a good old listen. The overall feel of the album is slightly heavier than their previous albums, yet it somehow manages to have a much clearer lighter sound to it. The album sees the first studio appearance of new drummer Steve Forrest and also has the band making use of instruments such as trumpets, saxophones, and the rather weird looking guitar ''The Springtime''. I was interested to find out if their choice to incorporate different sounds would be a winner or not.
Fans out there I'm sure will say that such things don't belong in Placebo's sound, the trio are well known for their unique glam punk angst fuelled music, so this left me feeling Intrigued.
The album has enjoyed some success so far in the UK managing to chart at number 8, but it is over in mainland Europe where the album has really taken off with number 1 positions in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium.
-The Band Members-
Placebo is a London based trio who were first formed in 1994 by lead singer and guitarist Brian Molko and bassist Stefan Olsdal. The bands were recently joined by their new drummer Steve Forrest in mid 2008. The band is known for their punk glam style of music which coupled with Brian's distinctive singing voice make for an instantly recognisable and unique sound.
Along with the three main members of the band a number of additional musicians contributed towards the albums productions these include;
Bill Lloyd: on keyboards who has worked alongside the band on a number of the band's albums since 1999 as a sound designer and appears with the band live and works as a technician for the band as well.
Fiona Brice: on violin who also has worked along with the band on their previous album Meds as well as providing string arrangements for a number of different acts such as Westlife, Kayne West, and Simply Red. During Placebo's current tour she also provided the violin backing to a number of the tracks which are featured on the Battle for the Sun album.
1. Kitty Litter
The album kicks off with a filthy and grinding sounding guitar riff with a much darker and heavier feel than I have previously heard from Placebo yet Brian Molko's vocal appears much more crystal clear and allows the listener to really hear everything he is singing much easier than before. Despite these differences the song still remains easily recognisable as a Placebo track.
2. Ashtray Heart
The speed and tempo slow down slightly as the typical song structure of slow mellow verse to more rapid chorus is wonderfully heard in this song. However the old style is incorporated with new as we suddenly are treated to backing vocals something that has always till now been lacking on any Placebo album.
3. Battle for the Sun
The title track for the album sees the tempo and pace of the album slow right down to start with however as the song progresses the guitar and drums start to build back up in pace and strength. Once again the song does have a much more overall heavier feel to it. I found this to one of the songs that I managed to get in to straight away and has very quickly become a firm favourite of mine.
4. For What it's Worth
This was the first track on the album that I heard as the single for it was released sometime before the actual albums release and it soon became the most listened to track on my iTunes. The song is a pure Placebo sounding track but has been enhanced by the addition of a much fuller sounding backing track to it. Despite the fact that this is the song that I have listened to most on the album it still sounds fresh each time and makes me want to jump about each and every time.
5. Devils in the Details
The album very quickly moves back away from the distinctively poppy sound and feel of the last track and returns to the much darker heavier sound of the rest of the album. After such an energetic previous song this track can sound rather lacking but after several listenings it has really grown on me and provides a great contrast to the lightness of the previous track.
6. Bright Lights
The pace picks back up slightly as we move into this track which also incorporates a lighter feeling to it, Brian's vocals still remain clear and crisp on this track. The strange guitar sounds throughout are the result of the Springtime guitar that Brian plays during this track.
7. Speak in Tongues
Reported as Brian Molko's favourite track off the album the pace the song takes on is the typical style of Placebo with the slow mellow verse lines building up to the full crashing sound of the chorus. The track has a much dirty and harsher sound than the previous tracks and makes a good change to the overall feel of the album.
8. The Never-Ending Why
This song starts off full pelt with the whole band crashing into the intro the music then breaks down to a slightly lessened sound to it but soon builds straight back up for the chorus with it increasing as the middle section and solo of the song comes. Despite the massive amount of instrumental sound being made each instrument is still clearly heard with Brian's vocal track easily riding over the top of it.
Julien has a very different sound to the previous track as it has a much more flat sounding intro to it and it isn't until later in the track that the pace and strength of the song is shown. Like Devil in the Details this song I believe suffers slightly because the song before sounds better and not the fact that it is a bad track.
10. Happy You're Gone
The album moves in to the more sort of slow relentless ballad style that we have seen on previous albums but with the addition of extra content which gives the song a much richer and stronger sound than previously.
11. Breathe Underwater
After the ballad we have to have a rockier track and this song does just that as the band kick straight in to this with a massive amount of aggression and raw power. New boy Steve Forrest's drumming sounds very good and provides a brilliant under lay to this impressive track.
12. Come Undone
After the frenzy of the last track the album slows back down with this next song. Even though the pace has reduced the aggression is still there as the songs literally chugs along as Brian near screams the lyrics out during the chorus.
13. King of Medicine
The King of Medicine starts off in a far lighter tone than the rest of the album however as the song progresses the track slowly builds up to make for a good ending to the album. The trumpet sounds through the ending to the song make for an interesting addition to the tracks overall sound.
My personal favourites of the album are:
For What it's Worth - Firstly for it being the closest to the older sound, and secondly for it's very up tempo and jumpy style beat to it.
Battle for the Sun - This song has a strong sound to it with a very simple lyrical content making it really easy for me to sing along to it (badly of course.)
After really enjoying the single For What it's Worth I do confess to finding the rest of the album to be a bit more difficult to get into and after the first listen I found myself returning to their older material after only listening to the first half of the album. Despite this initial disappointment and difficultly in listening to I quickly came back to give it a second chance and after a while started to find the album growing on me more and more. The main problem I feel is that Placebo have had such a unique sound since their debut album that it very hard to accept any other sound from them. However If a band keeps producing the same sounding material over and over again they eventual become very repetitive and boring so this slight change in musical direction is more than welcome for me. The new drummer Steven Forrest has certainly added an extra edge to the drum track of the album and provided an even great level of power to some of the tracks. Overall this album may take a bit of getting in to but is certainly worth it, and like other bands that have produced new and fresh sounds to the discography I sure that this album will be appreciated by more as time goes on.
-Where to find out more-
If you wish to listen to the first single to this album '"For What it's Worth"' then you can find it here.
To find out more about the band and the album feel free to browse their website which not only includes some information about the band themselves, but also up and coming gigs and shows for the band. Along with the bands own online shop.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT PLACEBO
I normally wouldn't start a review with information about the artist/band in question. However, I would imagine that plenty of people reading this review don't actually know who Placebo are (they have never really been mainstream), so in this instance it seemed like a logical place to kick things off.
Placebo are a British band that were formed in 1994, and despite the fact that you may not have heard of them (or may have heard of them, but can't instantly recall any of their songs) they have in fact enjoyed a significant amount of success, and have sold over one million albums in the UK. In terms of style of music, they are very much a rock band, and any attempt to paint them as anything else would be somewhat misleading. In terms of comparison, they could perhaps be placed into the same general group as bands such as Blur and Radiohead. That said, over the years Placebo have noticeably attempted to advance their music and vary their style a little. This brings with it a level of appreciation from fans, and I at least feel that the band is not content with slipping into complacency by producing similar material with every album, which is good to see. Battle For The Sun is their sixth album, and is one that perhaps shows the most significant varying of their style to date. Certainly on reflection this was a bit of a risk, and if you want to know whether or not that risk has paid off, I suggest you read on.
1. Kitty Litter (3/5)
Odd title, but a very familiar start in terms of how this song pans out. I know I just said that this album is an attempt by Placebo to vary their style, but those who have listened to Placebo albums in the past will instantly feel at home with the opening to this song. Harsh riffs and solid drum beats bring a high tempo opening (and, indeed, a high tempo song) that signals the classic signs of a Placebo album. However, there are small signs of the changes to come, as there is clearly more variety as to the number of styles of guitars. On the whole though this track does its job by setting the tone and nothing more. The lyrics are a little lacking to be honest, and certainly if you analyse this song closely the main flaw that will be exposed is in that area (it's repetitive and just not really very endearing). However, as a song that you're only half listening to as a part of a playlist it's absolutely fine, and a decent enough opening to the album.
2. Ashtray Heart (3/5)
This song is similar to Kitty Litter in that it is high tempo with solid and consistent rifts. However, the sound that it produces in general is noticeably less harsh. There is also a backing track, which may sound a little odd to Placebo fans, but which actually works quite well all things considered. The song is in danger of being a little bit generic (a cardinal sin for rock fans), but the introduction of some non English lyrics adds a little bit of quirkiness. It's quirkiness that I imagine will turn off a lot of people who are used to Placebo producing something that is, well, not in a foreign language, but personally I quite like it. The song is not spectacular, but it signals an intent on behalf of the band to become slightly more appealing to a wider audience, which bodes well for things to come.
3. Battle For The Sun (2/5)
The title track, but one that honestly got me very worried about this album, because after a promising opening couple of tracks this one goes down hill. The thing is, if you take the individual components of this song, they are fine by themselves. The problem is that they do not come together at all. The lyrics are repetitive, and a lot of the song is just a chore to listen to. Listening is something instinctive that requires no effort as a rule, but I genuinely found it to be a struggle to listen to this song. If the uninspiring style wasn't bad enough by itself, the fact that this goes on for over five minutes is a nail in the coffin. As I said, there are some individual components that are fine (and rescue the song from a mark of 1/5), but on the whole this is just a struggle to listen to. One to be skipped.
4. For What It's Worth (5/5)
Luckily the anti climax of the title track is soon scrubbed away with this song, which is much, much better. It's a decent tempo again, but the thing that sets this apart from the three songs that came before it seems to be that a lot more thought has gone into it, and it really comes together very well. The lyrics are catchy, the tempo is good, and, importantly, the song is very pleasant to listen to. It just sounds good in the same way that the more mainstream rock tracks do (such as the recent ish Kings of Leon hits). It's also short and snappy, which means that there is no risk of it becoming dragged out or repetitive. It's really one to sing along to in the car whilst tapping your hand on the steering wheel, and overall this is one of my favourite tracks on the album.
5. Devil In The Details (1/5)
This is very different in style to the ones that came before it, with a very noticeable electronic backing for a lot of the song. Then you have lyrics that, because of the electronic backing, don't really sound like a song. Followed by a burst of guitar riffs from nowhere in the middle of the song, before a finish with the electronic backing again. If you think that this sounds like a rubbish recipe for a song, you would be right. It is rubbish. It barely actually sounds like a song at all for most of the time, and really is just a mess. Very difficult to listen to and really with no redeeming features that I can see.
6. Bright Lights (4/5)
I was very apprehensive about this track because the first thing I noticed is that the electronic backing sound is stuck with her as with Devil In The Details. However, this time it is actually done right. It is very easy to listen to with the electronic effects on the guitar put to good use. There is no traditional drum or guitar solo present, but then again it would have felt a little out of place if anything. The lyrics are a little odd to be perfectly honest, but on the whole this is a solid track and will please newcomers and fans alike.
7. Speak In Tongues (3/5)
The band stick with the electronic sounds with this one, interlaced with light guitar riffs. The standout feature, however, is the vocals, which are far more ambition in terms of pitch compared to other songs on this album. And they actually work quite well, which is a shame because the song as a whole is missing something and doesn't seem to come together quite right. You almost feel like the vocal ambition deserved something better to back it up. Instead you have a track that is decent enough, but just doesn't do enough to be memorable in the long run. A pity.
8. The Never Ending Why (4/5)
The lyrics for this one are odd. I'm not actually a person who generally pays close attention to lyrics when listening to rock music, even when I'm singing along to it (which may sound like a contradiction, but I promise that it isn't). But it is noticeable that these lyrics are odd. However, thankfully it doesn't detract from what is, tempo wise at least, an upbeat offering. The desire for Placebo to alter their style is shown here by some odd sharp piano sounding notes at parts of the song, but on the whole that somehow works with the meaty guitar riffs even though it really shouldn't. A decent track.
9. Julien (1/5)
This is a very strange song. It's electronic based again, and has something of a blaring backing track. There's not really much to say about this. I don't like it. The lyrics sound somewhat monotone in front of this really odd backing track, and I just can't get into this track at all. It's deep and repetitive and just not appealing. This doesn't work for me at all.
10. Happy You're Gone (4/5)
The piano chiming sound is back again for this one, but only to introduce some stronger guitar riffs later on. In many ways the guitar riffs offer some classic rock, which becomes even more prominent when combined with the strong vocals. I actually really like this track. The opening lyrics become mellow when put in front of the chiming back track, and then become much more powerful and emotional when the guitar comes in. It just works really well, and is a song that I took to straight away. If I had one criticism it would be that the mellow section at the start lasts a little too long, but by the end you won't care.
11. Breathe Underwater (3/5)
The high tempo with guitar riffs from the first two songs is back, though it is interlaced with some interesting drum work. The vocals are a little stronger as well. On the whole though this one falls into the same category as the first two songs on the album. It is a high tempo rock song with some solid riffs, that is decent to listen to as a background track, but falls apart a little when you analyse it. Solid, but not spectacular.
12. Come Undone (3/5)
And now we're back to mellow. This song is similar to Happy Your Gone in that it has the chiming followed by some heavier riffs. The reason why it is not as good is the vocals. This time around rather than having a power to them, they end up sounding a little bit whiny. Similar to the 'ballad' songs that punk bands come up with sometimes. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing, and it is a decent song, it just doesn't quite work as Placebo track and feels like a step backwards in a way. Fine for the casual listener though.
13. Kings Of Medicine (2/5)
Not a good ending. Once again this is a little odd. There's a very simple backing track with a mix of electric sounds and standard, simple riffs, but with a much more prominent vocal set. However, the vocals are not ambitious, and it just sounds like talking. The song is once again somewhat mellow, but with the lack of effort in the backing track it just sounds like a monologue with guitar riffs and piano notes in the background. It's not absolutely terrible, but isn't really that good either.
This album represents, in my opinion, the most significant step yet in terms of Placebo trying to vary their style and come up with something original. Parts of the album also sound like a push towards the mainstream. However, for me the album as a whole just doesn't really work. There are some good tracks on here, and certainly those who approach rock with something of an open mind can and will find a lot of entertainment. But traditional rock fans will be turned off by the variety, and Placebo fans may feel that the band has drifted too far.
However, despite the album not flowing well as a whole, that doesn't mean that the collection of songs isn't worth a purchase. Individually there is enough quality here to warrant a purchase. I'd probably recommend it for those who have an open mind when it comes to the genre, and it would make a good present for someone who is a rock fan but looking for something a little bit different. Just don't expect to be blown away, and don't expect something that stays in a consistent style.
I have been an avid Placebo fan ever since I heard 'Nancy Boy' back at the very start of their career, but I like to to think that I am still not so blinkered about them that I lap up and love everything that they release without so much as a second thought. I feel that they have produced a number of very good albums, without ever quite eliminating the 'filler' tracks which, let's face it, are in evidence on moreorless any album that you ever buy. From my point of view, 'Battle for the Sun', their sixth album (not including the greatest hits compliation), follows the pattern - when it is good, it is very very good, but it does at times lapse into mediocrity.
The album starts strongly with 'Kitty Litter', with the distinctive heavily influenced guitar sound and lead singer Brian Molko's impassioned vocals making for an excellent opening track. 'Ashtray Heart' is much more radio friendly, in fact I am surprised that it has not been selected as the second single, and was an instant hit down the front when I went to see them live a few months ago before the album had been released.
The title track is next, and it could have been really good, but for me is spoilt by the repetition of the last part of every line, which gets really aggravating after a bit and adds nothing to the song. Fortunately it is followed by a slice of genius in the form of 'For what it's Worth', a great choice as a first release from the album, and an example of Placebo at their very best.
Next we have a slower track, 'Devil in the Details', but almost as good as what immediately precedes it. 'Bright Lights' is, in my opinion, the first example of 'filler' on the album, mediocre in the extreme. 'Speak in Tongues' is just ok, but 'The Never Ending Why' is a distinct improvement, with the guitars back in full force in a rousing chorus. 'Julien' is also excellent, starting with a very unfamiliar sound for Placebo devotees, and the presence of violins in the chorus is certainly also a new departure for the band, but it works.
In 'Happy you're Gone' the band initially slow things down again in a pleasant enough but not particularly memorable way before Molko's strong vocals again dominate. 'Breathe Underwater' and 'Come Undone' are solid album tracks, better than filler but not destined for greatness. I cannot remember any Placebo album ending on a high, and unfortunately 'Kings of Medicine' follows this trend, for me it is comfortably the worst track on the album.
Overall this is a genuine attempt by the band to offer something new, with different sounds, arrangements etc., and on a number of occasions it works very well. However the fact remains that Molko has a very distinctive voice, and if you do not like it, you are probably not likely to enjoy this album any more than the five which preceded it. I do, and feel that this is as good as anything they have released, whilst still lacking just enough to make it not quite worthy of all five starts.
Placebo are a defiantly odd band, and always have been, sitting somewhere between flamboyant glam and angry punk posturing. Surfing in on the tail end of Britpop, they've defied the music press by remaining a going concern for six albums and about fifteen years. Probably, if we're being completely honest, because they've never raised their heads far enough above the parapet of popular culture to burn out like Oasis does every couple of years.
Boasting more drummers than Spinal Tap, and the distinctive nasal mid-Atlantic vocals of Brian 'sex pixie' Molko, the band is, in the best tradition of UK middleweight rock groups, huge in Europe, and famous for generating publicity through spats with other bands. One of the most notorious being their run-in with Limp Biskit during a South American tour.
But anyway. Battle For the Sun. Sixth album, any good? Well, that depends on your point of view, really. It's an enjoyable enough piece of music, but does it match the heights of the glory days of the self-titled Placebo and Without You I'm Nothing? No, not really.
Molko has said this is the first Placebo album with a 'discernable thematic unity'. He often talks like this, which has raised many accusations of pretentiousness over the years, but to be fair, bands will say almost anything to avoid the phrase 'concept album', aka 'commercial kiss of death'.
Not that Battle For the Sun really comes across as a concept album, mind you. There's a healthy amount of variety on here, from the Britpopesque Kings of Medicine to the quasi-Queens of the Stone Age sound of parts of title track Battle For the Sun, and the combination of new drummer Steve Forrest and producer David Bottrill seems to have an added a bit of punch and bite to Placebo's sound that hasn't been there since the early days.
But it's all a bit... I don't quite know. Look, the thing about Placebo is that their original style was very straightforward. Although Malko's guitar work sounds pretty sophisticated on even their first album, the truth is this was largely due to the adoption of 'Placebo tuning', a variant on Drop D tuning, which meant, well, the poor little lad didn't have to move his fingers too much, basically.
Me being me, I love the idea that a band can conquer Europe and release videos of themselves walking down the sides of skyscrapers, while only being able to make one chord shape. They write the music, it seems to me only efficient to write that music in such a way that it's easy to play.
Where Battle For the Sun goes wrong, I feel, is in expanding beyond the basic instrument range of guitar, bass and drums. There's trumpets now, and saxophones, and I can't help but feel that for a glam/grunge/punk band, there's not much room for trying to incorporate a bit of ska as well. I think it's great that Placebo is developing, and that they're skilled musicians determined not to settle for ploughing their mid-90s groove for the rest of their careers, but the increased musical range sort of dilutes their sound for me, and makes it sound sometimes a bit like a school band playing a Placebo song. It's undoubtedly their most musically accomplished album, but I think they've sacrificed a bit of their identity to get there.
It's a mistake a lot of bands make mid-career, having a bigger recording budget they bring in string sections and play gigs with orchestras, before suddenly realising they've lost touch with their roots and releasing a 'stripped-down' follow-up album. I wouldn't be surprised if that's what we get as Placebo's seventh release.
Title track Battle For the Sun is a good example of this, it's a solid song with an insistent marching beat that breaks into a soaring transcendent chorus about 'dream brothers'. With an electric violin in the background. It's a worthy addition to the band's catalogue, but I can't wait to see them live when the strings will have to be substituted for some proper NOISE.
Ashtray Heart has a great title, as it was the band's original name way back in the early 90s. It's got a bit of the zing of the band's first album's opener Come Home, particularly in the chorus. It would probably have made a better opening track than the unremarkable Kitty Litter.
I think part of the problem that Placebo have in maintaining their reputation is that they've lost a large chunk of their relevance. In the mid-90s, a high-profile band with an openly bisexual singer and gay guitarist was an important development in society's rocky road to accepting non-heterosexual lifestyles. The mere fact that Molko was singing songs like Nancy Boy helped a lot of their fans come to terms with their own sexuality. That time's kind of over now, though. Everyone's at least a little bit gay now, and I worry that without the social relevance of the band, they are starting to fade in the public imagination.
Every time I listen to the album I start to think I'm being a bit harsh here. Anthemic tracks like Julien seem to cry out for the orchestral swell that gradually builds up, and the juxtaposition of violins and the grim chorus hook 'slow-motion suicide' is an effective contrast. But as soon as I find myself tempted to award the record an extra star, I'm reminded of Pure Morning, Every You, Every Me, even their covers of 20th Century Boy and Running Up That Hill.
Placebo have been around a long time, but they still sound fresh and still clearly have a lot of innovation in them. Battle For the Sun would be a stunning debut album for any band, but these chaps are just capable of quite a bit more. One final mix, cutting a few of the weaker tracks (_Kitty Litter_ especially) and stripping out the orchestras with ruthless savagery could have made this release a classic. Listen, enjoy, but make sure you check out the back catalogue.
This is quite a new album, so while I actually paid about £14 for it, you can generally get it for around a tenner for as long as it remains in the album charts.
Having been an avid Placebo fan since there first album, I was very excited to here that after three long years they were realising a new album. Unfortunately after all the hype the album did not quite live up the expectations or the quality of the previous albums.
However the album is definitely worth obtaining for any Placebo fan, it is slightly different from what I was expecting and came across as little bit experimental but I feel that this works well across most of the tracks.
Despite not being up to the standards of the previous albums, it does have some very good tracks, the opening track especially started off what sound like a very promising album, which for me I felt that first half of the album was particularly good.
It has to be noted that the instrumental parts of the songs, especially the guitar playing cannot be faulted but it is the lyrics that really let this album down, they lack the depth and meaning that most Placebo fans have come to expect from the band, they also come off as a bit repetitive and almost a bit whinny in places.
In conclusion this album is definitely worth adding to any Indie Rock fan's collection.
Finally, the much awaited comeback album from Placebo has arrived. It's been 3 long years since the band released Meds and after incurring a line-up change also, fans awaited with bated breath into whether the band could pull it off once again.
I can safely say, they have.
The album starts off with the gritty guitar work of Stefan Olsdal before hearing the unique and brilliant voice of Brian Molko kicking in. The album manages to encompass everything that the fans love about Placebo, such as the stark lyrics and the somehow simultaneously lulling and exhilarating instrumental background; yet it's not become stale, unlike other bands that have got over 10 years of recording under their belt.
Each song is amazing for all the individual reasons, and you'd be foolish to say that the album contains 13 very similar songs. The band have certainly created a masterpiece, an album that should go down as real focal point for the band.
In my personal opinion, Kings of Medicine is a must listen to.
This review is originally from Ciao.co.uk!
Since 2003 I have been a bit of a fan of placebo, thanks to a certain other member of this site.. She knows who she is!! So in the past 6 years I have developed a bit of a collection of CD's, DVD's and posters, oh and the odd signed photo hanging on the wall.. So when I heard the band had begun penning their 6th studio album (not counting Once More With Feeling - only a singles collection!) I couldn't wait to hear the new offering - especially as they had new drummer Steve on board.. Since hearing the first few tracks on the radio, thanks to Zane Lowe I have been quite apprehensive to hear what the album will be live.. So I put in my pre-order of the album and waited until it landed on my doormat to find out!
When it finally arrived the morning of the 6th of June, I nearly ripped it out of my postman's hand, especially as he delivered it at 7.45am, so I had all day to listen to it and decide if I liked it.. I have had lots of listening time to formulate my own opinion.. Not that I haven't heard enough opinion about it from my lovely parents!!
Who Are Placebo?
For those of you who don't know Placebo they are a band formed in the early 1990's in London by Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdall, the boys who had been to school together in Luxemburg but had really not taken much notice of each other, apparently due to Stefan being part of the 'sports crowd' and Brian obviously not being such a sporty fellow, more interested in performing arts and music side of things.. The pair met again on Kensington station platform in London having not seen each other for a number of years. They became better friends than they ever had been at school and given both Brian and Stefan's love of music, Brian invited Stefan to watch him play in a local bar...
By this point I should say and the rest is history but then I would be lying, after seeing Brian play, Stefan approached Brian and apparently suggested they form a band, having gained a bassist and a guitarist in each other, they now needed a drummer... not that they could happily decide on one, during his time, Brian had met Steve Hewitt, a drummer who Brian had played the occasional gig with, which unfortunately due to other band commitments, meant he was unable to join the band that would later go on to be called 'Ashtray Heart,' however fear not, the boys found a drummer - in the shape of Robert Schultzberg. Another former school friend of Stefan's, with the addition of the drummer the band were set to go...
All they needed now was a name and a recording contract... They got that in the name Placebo and the first album was produced under the label 'Caroline Records.'
The band now consists of..
* Brian Molko - 10/12/1972...
Brian Molko, born in Brussels on the 10th of December 1972, to an American banker father, and a Scottish mother, is the lead singer, co-song writer, bi sexual and general big mouth of Placebo. As much as his talent is obvious he is also liable as he has admitted himself, the fact that his mouth gets him into trouble...
This young man (well maybe not that young anymore) attended the American International School of Luxembourg with the two other original members of the band, When he finished school he joined Goldsmiths College in London, after discovering his love for androgyny, black nail varnish and eyeliner, he came to England to study drama.. Now anyone who knows of Brian Molko knows he is a little drama queen...
* Stefan Olsdall - 31/03/1974...
Stefan Alexander Bo Olsdal, born 31st of March 1974, in Sweden. The musician and his family moved to Luxembourg, when he was young where he attended the same school as Brian and played in the orchestra there beginning his love of playing.. When he and his parents moved to London, Stefan joined the Musicians Institute.. Which later on, on a tube station in London that Brian and Stefan met, and later formed the band..
Stefan is a very softly spoken member of the band, so much so that despite his 6 foot stature he is completely overshadowed by mouthy Molko..
* Steve Forrest - Well he seems a little elusive to be honest, because I have spent the afternoon looking for information about the new drummer and he is a little hard to find! All I can really gather from little snippets of websites, is that Mr. Forrest comes from California, and previously played with the band Evaline.. A band in which he declared his intentions to leave in early 2007, but stayed throughout their summer tour - during which time he got a little friendly with the Placebo boys.. Only to be named as the new drummer in early 2008..
However I am guessing at some point in the future we will find out more about Steve's replacement..
1. Kitty Litter..
2. Ashtray Heart..
3. Battle For The Sun..
4. For What It's Worth..
5. Devil In The Details..
6. Bright Lights..
7. Speak In Tongues..
8. The Never - Ending Why..
10. Happy Your Gone..
11. Breathe Underwater..
12. Come Undone..
13. Kings of Medicine..
For a starter just looking at those titles, you really would wonder if Molko and his merry band of men are back on the drugs they used to take back in the nineties.. They would of course insist that they aren't but you do just have to wonder.. Perhaps it is just the sleepless nights for Molko with little Cody to make him have a few weird titles.. Though some of them, if you know the band the title Ashtray Heart will not be so much of a mystery..
Kitty Litter - 3.47
*** 3 Stars..
Well the title sounds like it should be about cats going to the toilet, but guess what? It's not! When you first look at the lyrics to this song, it is when you realise Placebo have lost it slightly.. I don't mean that in a nasty or bad way, but put it this way they are a little repetitive, to be honest it is not even a little, it is a lot.. Every verse seems to have a repeated line over and over.. I mean it is not all that annoying unless you are taking notice of the music, for background music I wouldn't worry too much, but if you are actually listening intently to it, on your mp3 player for example, expect to get a little annoyed!
This song begins exactly as you would expect a Placebo song to start, but an angry riff and solid drum beat - which is the way you can almost recognise that it is a placebo song! This song seems to experiment with what seems like a lot more guitars at once than previously which gives the song a whole new sound, though it does seem the bass line is swallowed up by them. The song itself, is not their best work in my opinion but I can still happily listen to it, without wanting to turn it off or skip right over it.. For a beginning to the album it works well because it is a high tempo track, which prepares you for some of the things that are about happen in the next few songs..
Ashtray Heart - 3.32
*** 3 Stars..
Ok so if you know the band, they used to be called Ashtray Heart, and if you didn't know - well you do now! Still this song you would imagine given the history in the title it would be a little remiscent of the past and how things had changed.. However I am not really sure what half the words mean.. Some of the lyrics are in English and they are a little weird, suggesting ripping out someones heart and using it to stub out cigarettes is a little weird in it's own rights really.. Not something I didn't really expect from Molko's song writing, but writing in a language that we really don't have a clue about is a little insulting.. If anyone knows what 'Mi Corazon de Cenicero' means please leave a comment.. I have no idea what it means, or what language it is!
This song starts out as it means to go on, as it begins just as a normal sounding Placebo track that has a decent riff and a solid bass line, that is more prominent than in the past.. The drums are consistent with the rest of the song, but strangely enough the introduction of a more obvious backing track is not that fitting at the first listening but as time goes on and you listen to it more it makes more sense being there. The song doesn't have any particular features that stand out but it isn't a song you would immediately skip over because it was unbearable.. It is the main song that has actually grown on me in the 10 days I have had the album..
Battle For The Sun - 5.33
*** 3 Stars..
This song was infact the first offering we received from Placebo to a hint about what this album may have been like, and I have to say in the first few listening I was not best impressed with the song, mainly because it just went on forever, some songs should be lengthy.. This one I don't think so.. It has some incredibly repetitive lyrics, and Molko's voice gets right on my nerves because honestly how many times can you repeat the word 'sun,' 'weight,' or 'fake.' Honestly it is so dragged out, and I don't even think it really serves a purpose because there is no way you can listen to it without thinking I am fed up now and wanting to change the song!
This was the first song I heard from the new album and I have to say despite the lyrics being really awful, the actual instrumental guitars are pounding and they really make an effect on the song, it is something really considering it has a lot to make up for given that there is not a lot going for the song in general. One of the quite cool things I noticed about this song, is that new Steve has brought something different in his drumming, at least for this song anyway.. He seems to think he is in a marching band and clapping his drumsticks together instead of on the drum skin, although it does work.. Giving a new dimension to the song..
For What It's Worth - 2.47
**** 4 Stars..
Now this song is more like a Placebo track, well sort of it has the trademark short length that the better Placebo songs have - for a starter this song has slightly better lyrics - well sort of anyway, they are ar less repetitive than the previous song. At least this song seems to have a little meaning to it, mainly about all the things that happen in life and the effect they have on you.. Which at least gives this song a reason to listen to because it actually sounds good in your ears, and seems like a little more thought has gone into it. Well compared to the previous three songs anyway!
This song is short and sweet, musically it is a great song, it begins with a fast riff that sort of gives away the length of the song I think.. Then the drums kick in and everything seems relatively calm - until the chorus when the guitars get a little more urgent, and then they stop all of a sudden and we have female backing vocals which I have to say is a bit of a new thing for the band. One of the best things about this track is the sections between the chorus and the verse, because it has a quick drop from frantic guitars to just Molko's voice, it makes me want to listen to the song so loud and sing so loud I sound out of tune!
Devil In The Details - 4.28
** 2 Stars..
Ok so now I don't want to repeat myself as much as Molko but this song lyrically is a bit naff, this song lyrically to me just sounds like he is getting a bit mad with a party he has to plan. It really doesn't sound as deep and meaningful as the Placebo lyrics used to, which is a shame - still it gives Molko a reason to vent his feelings about whatever he is rattling about this time.. The only redeeming feature lyrically in this song, well somewhat redeeming is that he mentions 'all my wicked ways, will come back to haunt me come what may, for all the song I hope to write one day.' Does that mean he is considering actually writing some decent songs in the future?
I have to say I struggle to listen to even for a minute it really gets on my nerves whether it is the lyrics that annoy me because Brian swears a lot in it, or it might just be the fact compared the 'For What it's Worth' the song is just not as good.. Either way I know I cannot bear to listen to it but I will for the sake of this review..
The song spends the first twenty seconds, with a low drum beat, and creeps in a lovely electronic sound that would fit nicely if there was more to the song.. The song then bursts into heavy guitars and drums without any real warning, and then back to the dull electronic sound they seem so fond of.
Bright Lights - 3.23
**** 4 Stars
This song lyrically makes me laugh, because when you actually listen to them, it seems like Molko is regretting being a mouthy git when he was younger.. As he mentions all the people he has annoyed, and over the years that is a hefty amount of people.. I wonder if he will ever make up with Fred Durst? If you don't know what I mean and you are a bit of a Placebo fan, check it out on wikipedia and give yourself a bit of a giggle.. Well I have always thought you learn something new everyday with a Placebo song, in this case I am actually right the word Schism, until now I had no clue what it meant, if you want it know.. Its primary meaning is a division in religious denomination - so this song is quite topical given all the religious fighting all over the world..
This song sounds a lot like some of the old Placebo songs it could easily have come from Black Market Music, it has the chiming guitars of old, and the drumming as simple as it can be, enough to make the song more than listenable.. There is nothing special instrumentally about this song, it is just a trademark Placebo song really.. It is easy to listen to, with fitting lyrics.. It is just a great song, but not quite perfect, as we are missing a drum or guitar solo!
Speak In Tongues - 4.06
** 2 Stars..
This song lyrically fits in a little more with the first track of the album Kitty Litter, but still where is the sense in co-ordinating the lyrics with the title.. Why make sense when you can play lets repeat the lyrics over and over.. This song really is not all that prominent on the album even though it has Brian sounding like he is being stabbed at one point, which is not a nice noise when playing the album at a high volume in your car.. The lyrics as I say are just completely unmemorable, which is a pity.. Then again the most prominent thing about this song is Brian's voice, a few albums ago this higher pitched scream like singing would not have been uncommon - but recently his voice had become a little deeper, but he seems to have regressed slightly!
The song instrumentally is a bit drab, there is more electronic music in the background than there is any guitars which is something that seems to becoming a bit of a pattern with this album, there is a low guitar rhythm in the background which rumbles underneath the surface until close to the end, where it becomes a little heavier, but nothing that really stands out as progress in the album. It could be an earlier song just with different lyrics, it isn't a song, I would go out of my way to listen to.
The Never Ending Why - 3.23
**** 4 Stars..
This song is a little weird I have to say, but it deals with some strange issues including tumours, which is not a delicate song topic I wouldn't imagine but this is a Placebo song, so things are never normal topics! To be honest meaning wise this song is the best because it has a nice sentiment of despite having lots of time on your hands, things you need to work out - some will never be resolved.. It is probably my favourite song on the album and I have listened to it more than any other song on the album so that is a good sign right?
This song is a little reminiscent of Placebo of old, which is a good thing because it is something that has been quite badly lacking.. There strangely is an underlying rhythm of a piano which sounds a bit twinkley (if you get what I mean) which is definitely something the older albums wouldn't have done, but still it fits very well with the song so I am not going to complain about it. There is a lot of heavy guitar lines in here, which give it a bit more of a rocky feel to it.. Something of which has been missing and that I am more than happy to hear! However listening to the drums in the background for this track it doesn't really sound like the new Steve has made much of a difference to the actual music..
Julien - 4.43
**** 4 Stars..
I can't even begin to try and explain how weird this song is, Brian is suggesting this 'julien' should get on a train, in a suitcase if he has to - anyone think they might notice! The most obvious thing that I notice about this song, is the lyric 'slow motion suicide' could it really get any darker? I really don't think so, as much as I though Molko and his song writing had grown up past the suicide stage it appears not, because he is still writing about it.. The lyrics could also be about someone else so I guess I shouldn't be too quick to judge it! Guess what the last minute of the song is a repetition of the aforementioned lyric.. Yay!
This song is very electro based, something I didn't expect from the band - Brian's voice sounds more like he is talking rather than singing but it works well with the beat. The guitar that kicks in sounds quite electronic too perhaps it is but I can't distinguish between the two! It soon kicks in with some heavier riffs, and something that sounds like a string instrument making the song sound a little more urgent.. At one point this song about 2.45 in it sounds like the hidden track called 'Evil Dildo,' strange name I know, if you want to find it, it is on the album 'Without You I'm Nothing.' It is thankfully not as frenzied as the song it is similar to but it is easily recognisable as the riff from it!
Happy Your Gone - 3.50
*** 3 Stars..
Did you think we could get through another track without a lot of repetition, oh how I wish I could say this song didn't sound the same over and over again.. I would be lying though if I did, this song seems to suggest a little guilt, and remorse over something the character in the song has done - to do with a relationship, because mentioning seeing someone in others faces, tends to be how you feel when a relationship has ended. However I may be barking completely up the wrong tree, but still I have made my judgement about how the song speaks to me!
This song starts out so slowly it just feels like it is going to go on forever, which is something that could drive you to distraction.. It is consistently slow, and stops in places, but then bursts into heavier drums and guitars, which is a bit disturbing especially if you are not expecting it! The fact that is disappears into calm music again it just confuses your mind, or and your speakers! If it has a little more consistency of a mid tempo not changing from one to the other it would be more listenable - which is why I don't really like this song.
Breathe Underwater - 3.44
*** 3 Stars
This song, does seem like Molko is feeling a little delicate but knows he has done something wrong.. This song actually mentions a lot of things that people have critised Molko for in the past such as his ego - having always been known for loving himself just that little bit too much.. It seems to be a bit of an attack of concience, to make him realise that if he doesn't stop alienating himself people will not want him and he has only just realised.. Then again it would be quite egotistical to write a song about himself - but maybe then again that's the point he is making - I don't know!
This song has a more consistent tempo to it but still it is not the best song on the album, but it is defiantly a grower.. As I sit here listening to it at the moment, I have to say I am enjoying it more than I did two days ago, as the guitars are more of Placebo of old, which is something that very few songs on this album can boast.. It does drop in depth part way through but the tempo never changes too dramatically so it is automatically more listenable than the previous song. It has a very faint bass line, that can actually be heard unlike most tracks that drown it out with heavy guitars or drums.
Come Undone - 4.37
*** 3 Stars..
As you get closer to the end of the album I personally think the songs get a little boring to be honest, they become a little more serene and the lyrics are very repetitive, at quite boring simply repeating the words 'you come undone' it does get very irritating, the lyrics seem to have no particular meaning other than just someone falling apart.. Still that is no excuse for the poor show of lyrics on Molko's behalf, as there are very few and those there are, are either repeated or similar with words replaced.. There seems to be no real imagination gone into it which is a real shame.
For those of you who know the album Sleeping With Ghosts, this song is very similar in sound to Centrefolds I think, because it seems nice and slow without any real heavy guitars until a way into the song.. When it does kick in it actually sticks around, and makes sense for being there. As centrefolds does, it has a slightly melancholic feel to it, without being annoying.. This song would have been ideal for the last track because it has plenty of solos which really make it stand out from a lot of the songs on this album.. The only thing that lets it down is the lyrics..
Kings Of Medicine - 4.13
** 2 Stars..
When I first heard this song, I couldn't really get my head around what on earth Molko was on about, but I think I have an idea now, I may be over reacting to the idea, of being in a bag, but to me that tends to mean being dead.. Regretting spending time with someone who gets them into a lot of trouble, however knowing Molko's past he would be the one getting people into trouble, well at least in his younger days.. It seems odd that he is referring to drugs as that is a subject they have not really broached as a band for a very long time..
This song begins fairly acoustically with just guitars and slow drumming, it continues to be fairly slow with a piano background and a constant low drumming.. There is some of this albums trademark electronic sound as the song processes.. As the song heads towards the second chorus things tend to get a bit more urgent, to just calm down again with the piano melody - it is a very calm song, but it isn't perhaps the best way to end the album because it doesn't really leave you with a lasting impression. Nothing to really make you go back for more
Compared to the placebo lyrics of old, I have to say I am quite disappointed.. Where Molko used to really create songs, that meant something strongly to him or an experience he had to we could all relate to on some level.. With clever imagery and language sometimes that meant I needed a dictionary or an English degree to work out - ok the degree was maybe a bit dramatic, but one song did teach me something that I used in my English A-level.. So all those days I spent listening to Placebo albums that my parents despised was worth it in the end.. Not that they will ever agree - anyway!
The lyrics of their debut album maybe weren't so spectacular either, but they didn't completely rely on repeating themselves over and over again.. The songs, had something different about them, lyrics that were catchy in a slightly disturbing sense talking about drugs, silver rockets and lubricants - and when you are 13 or 14 years old, I think I can understand why my parents weren't so keen on them.. However regardless of some weird topics in their songs they at least had a little substance to them, which is one of the main reasons the band gets the gossip they do - controversial is the bands middle name in a sense because everything up until now had something that was a topic relatively uncovered.. No Black Eyed Peas, Boom Boom Pow's here.. Thankfully!
I mean don't get my wrong these songs aren't completely unlistenable, but they are not some of the songs I would have on repeat on my shiny new iPod - because for the most part there is very little imagination in the topics because a topic of regretting what he did earlier on in his life doesn't need to be depicted in numerous situations, especially for new fans who really aren't going to know about his shady past unless they decide to dig around the history of Brian Molko and find out about his mouthy attitude, the fights, and temper tantrums of the past.
The references to death in this album that I have noticed are a little over the top with the lack of subtlety - in a bag.. Well that's a lovely thing to listen too! So the Placebo albums have never been all that joyous but they at least had a better way of dealing with death! The writing itself, as I said before used to be full of words that were more like an English lesson - I have either become a little cleverer since the previous album was released, or Molko is running out of big words to baffle me with.. As only one word this album has baffled me for a split second which is Schism.. If you read a little bit above you will know I do now know what it means.
This album as I have spoken to many people about is step in a new direction for the band, as much as I do agree with that I have to say in some places it is a step back because they seem to be heading back to the dark place they appeared to have broken through from after Black Market Music. For two albums now there has been no direct references to death or anything that harsh but for some reason it seems to have come out now..
Musically the album is quite good, I can imagine this album would be brilliant live, with some of the great guitar riffs that start of some of the songs, especially the one that sounds just like 'Evil Dildo' - given that we are highly unlikely to ever hear that song live it is nice to hear it even if only slightly in another song.. There are a lot of electronic bits to most of the songs on this album which could be a pain to perform live, although they do have extra men to help them out.. It is interesting to hear a different side to Placebo including more string instruments, to give it a more melancholic sound or somewhat more frantic tempo to it.. Either way it does its job very efficiently.. There are small hints of piano in here, which I can see Molko taking great delight in playing with Stefan..
I am not going to say that Steve Forrest is a bad drummer, because he is not, I have heard some brilliant drumming on this album, even if he is just clapping his sticks together, he has brought something new to the bands sound. Then again at the same time I think he has brought something bad to the band, it seems as I said before it has brought something dark back on the band that seemed a lot cheerier in Meds, than ever before!
I can just hope at some point in the future when they release the next album we see a better newer side to Placebo, one that maybe is not so much influenced by a new member - Sorry Steve Forrest but I am blaming you for this dramatic down turn in the quality of Placebo songs, bring back Steve Hewitt!!!!!!!
Price and Availability
Play.com - £7.99
Amazon.co.uk - £7.98
CDWow - £7.99
As always you can pop onto eBay and see if you can get a deal on there, but I like to have my CD from new knowing it is mine!!
Thank you for reading!
'Battle for the Sun' is Placebo's sixth studio album, coming three years after 'Meds' which is about standard time between albums for them. I have found that Placebo's albums have been getting steadily better, excluding their second and finest album to date 'Without You I'm Nothing'.
Placebo has a lot at stake this time. There has been a change to the band line up with Steve Forrest replacing Steve Hewitt on drums. They have also left Virgin records and self financed this record. If you are going to do that you better make sure it's a good release. Thankfully it is excellent.
The sound is unmistakably Placebo but has a fresher and more accomplished edge to it. It comes across that more time was spent on making this a polished sound and it is that, a sound rather than a collection of tracks.
The opening is typical of most Placebo records, 'Kitty Litter' is heavily guitar influenced and fairly uninspired. It's a safe track to open with and won't raise many eyebrows. Having said that it is the best opener since 'Pure Morning' on 'Without You I'm Nothing'. As safe as that track was 'Ashtray Heart' was a surprising change from anything I have heard from Placebo before. Ignoring the pretentious Spanish chanting, this is followed by a lively chorus, 'It was a leap of faith I could not take, a promise I could not make, my ashtray heart, my ashtray heart....' One that will definitely feature on the live show.
The title track 'Battle for the Sun' is the longest track on the album and opens with a metronomic opening beat similar to 'Pure Morning' but is probably the poorest lyrically on the album. I was disappointed on first listening but it grows on you a lot (Placebo sent this one out as a free download months ago). Surprising how catchy repeating the odd word can become but I can see this track being an easy target for people who don't like Placebo. It does become more complex as the track progresses and builds up to an impressive finale but it's probably not quite good enough to be the title track on this impressive collection. It was probably chosen for the easy visuals it gave for the album cover.
The next five tracks are as good as anything Placebo have ever produced. The first single, 'For What it's Worth', is the shortest track on the album. It's a magnificent track, displaying everything which is good about Placebo. The start is very similar to 'Nancy Boy' from 'Placebo' and is every bit the equal of that track. The singalong chorus, followed by the pause and low response building up into a big climax is nothing short of fantastic.
Following this is 'Devil in the Details', a slower track which allows Molko to display the full range of his vocal talent. Some will find the swearing offensive in this track (a repeated line of 'that f**king pal of mine) but I felt it was just about justified with the emotion Molko invests in it.
'Bright Lights' is as close to a cheerful sound as Placebo get and it works well. Another high quality track although lyrically not the best; a chorus of 'a heart that hurts, is a heart that works' could perhaps have been better but that's a small complaint and the closing to the track is excellent, as polished as I have heard Placebo end a track. This has been the track which has grown on me most.
The second best track on the whole collection is 'Speak in Tongues'. Molko is at the fore-front of this one with the instruments understated in the background. And it even has time for an inspirational message of 'We can build a new tomorrow, today!'. I have heard everything now!
Things briefly start to lessen in quality at this point. 'The Never-Ending Why' is fairly formulaic and is correctly position in the middle of the album so not to spoil the start or end. It's a good song, just nothing new. That's not something that could be levelled at 'Julien'. The start of which completely threw me. I can only describe it as similar experience to when I played 'The Killers' new album and Human came on. The opposite of what I was expecting. This track does become a bit more like Placebo as it progresses and I still can't make my mind up whether I like it or not. I think it may be a slow grower.
At this point I started to worry as usually by now there are two or three tracks I dislike and I thought they have front loaded this album. It was a pleasant surprise that this is not the case. 'Happy You're Gone' is the best track on this collection. It starts off like a ballad then goes between rockier before returning to a ballad. It's a great example of how to do this type of track properly. This is as good as anything Placebo have ever done and will surely become a staple Placebo live song. Magnificent.
'Breathe Underwater' is standard Placebo, a good guitar based track which is nothing too far removed from their sound. 'Come Undone' is also similar to previous tracks they have done but I like the lyrics in this one 'walking around like you're on some kind of cross, and it's a shame on you the irony's lost, when you come undone, you come undone..'
With most Placebo albums there are tracks which you wonder how they ever made the final cut. I don't feel that way about any of the tracks on this. Admittedly there are parts of songs where I think they have got this wrong such as the simplistic opening to the closing track 'Kings of Medicine' but the track evolves into an excellent track which is the perfect closer to the album and is the favourite track of a few friends of mine.
Normally on a Placebo album I could point to the singles but that is not the case here. I hope they will be brave and go for some of the less obvious single tracks, but we shall see...
This album is available in numerous formats. As a download from itunes, on CD, limited edition cd and dvd, LP and a limited edition box set. The cost ranges from under £10 to £70 but I would say each release represents value for money, the box set isn't the usual rip-off and the first 500 are personally signed by the band.
To sum it up when people used to ask me Placebo's best album I automatically said 'Without You I'm Nothing'; that is no longer the case. This is the album I was hoping Placebo had in them and I can't praise it highly enough.
Will this win Placebo new fans? Probably not, they tend to polarise opinion and people seldom change their mind. Hopefully it will convert a few though.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Kitty Litter
2 Ashtray Heart
3 Battle For The Sun
4 For What It's Worth
5 Devil In The Details
6 Bright Lights
7 Speak In Tongues
8 Never Ending Why, The
10 Happy You're Gone
11 Breathe Underwater
12 Come Undone
13 Kings Of Medicine