Placebo

Battle For The Sun

Written by: TL on 24/06/2009 20:10:04

In my ears at least, it has been awfully quiet around Placebo ever since the echo of the singles from 2006 album "Meds" died out, especially since the three-piece was left by the second drummer of their career, Steve Hewitt. However, Placebo haven't been lying dormant, no, they've found themselves a new drummer in Steve Forrest and are ready to show the world their most recent sign of life, namely their sixth LP "Battle For The Sun".

Introducing Placebo seems pointless. The British band have become a cherised institution of the underground while also becoming well known by the mainstream media world wide. They are as big a band as you can be in rock without being Coldplay. The difference being that unlike Coldplay, Placebo have never disappointed or sold out. From playing razor-edged garage rock, through experimenting with electronica, Brian Molko, Stefan Olsdal and whoever drummed at the time have always taken the role of the underdog. Championing the underground with their goth/gutter/glam appearance and their songs of being fucked up, whether it be a result of drug abuse, sexual deviance or just plain old heartbreak.

Their new album "Battle For The Sun" is no different. Stylistically, the moody electronics of the last two albums have been toned down for a more straight forward alt-rock approach, but they're not gone at all, and seeing how they've been joined by horns and string sections, there's still enough cream on this cake to suggest that the band are fortified enough to play around with their sound without messing it up. The first two songs, "Kitty Litter" and "Ashtray Heart" - the latter of which was also the band's original name - do admittedly feel a bit like the band is flying on auto-pilot, but as soon as the title track kicks in it becomes clear that the boys are warmed up and ready to show their worth. Molko sneers and spits out his trademark nasal vocals with a charisma that explains beyond a doubt why his band is where they are today, and as the listener is hypnotized by the pulsating bass and the glittering electronics, his words strike home, one by one. They are repeated with attitude in the verse and you easily catch on and get onboard for the climatic violin-backed crescendo that ends the song

The lead single "For What It's Worth" follows up with a similar punch, as its catch phrase quickly takes up residence in your mind, again, it is simple, rhythmic work from both guitar and bass that makes your heart beat to the music, and again its Molko's sleazy performance that brings home the gold as he chants "Noone cares when you're out on the street/Picking up the pieces to make ends meet/Noone cares when you're down in the gutter/Got no friends, got no lover!". An abrupt break, a brief moment of respite and then a comeback with a teasing fanfare from some horn. This my friends, is why bands like Kill Hannah (maybe even Aiden) wish they were Placebo, and this is why they'll just never have the same kind of class. For more than a handful of songs around the middle of the album, Placebo shows that rock'n'roll is as easy to them as breathing - in fact, for a while there it feels like they blow it out as a biproduct of breathing instead of CO2.

However, among the last handful of songs, there are a few that feel like the two first ones - classic Placebo but without that little extra that really makes them memorable. But I guess that only makes this record a classic Placebo album too. After all, I think it's been true for the previous five albums too, that while we all enjoy them from start to ending when we let them play, each have had three to five songs that were simply a bit better, and hence made us come back for them time and again. In any case, this album is a quality product from a welcome voice of experience and credibility in this world flooded with short lived 'new talent'.

8

Download: Battle For The Sun, For What It's Worth, Devil In The Details, Speak In Tongues
For The Fans Of: David Bowie, The Cure, The Kills, Morrissey, Velvet Goldmine
Listen: myspace.com/placebo

Release Date 08.06.2009
PIAS / Vagrant Records

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