Placebo Glams It Up

Placebo - Without You I'm Nothing
(Virgin Records)
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

By Tony Bonyata

T. Rex's Marc Bolan invented it. David Bowie perfected it. And now the London-based trio Placebo have helped resurrect it some twenty-seven years after it's inception.
Glam rock, which is making a splash again, at least in England, thanks to Todd Haynes critically acclaimed film Velvet Goldmine which documents the rise and fall of this genre, is a mixture of sneering buzzsaw guitars, solid melodies and androgynous lyrics which blurs sexuality . Brit-bands such as Pulp, Venus In Furs and Suede have all recently churned out strong albums with shades of glam-rock, but no band captures the 'wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am' energy of this rock-music-in-drag better than Placebo.
After garnering a gold record with their first self-titled album and embarking on an aggressive tour, backing up heavyweights like Bowie and U2, bandmembers Brian Molko (vocals and guitars), Stefan Olsdal (bass) and Steve Hewitt (drums) have released their follow-up album entitled Without You I'm Nothing. On it they've not only resurrected the ghosts of Ziggy and T. Rex but have actually updated glam, adding a bit more muscle to an already hard-edged swishiness.
Another key element that Molko was keen not to overlook was the threatening, androgynous look that he's created. As he states in a quote from Placebo's web site, "What I would find amusing, a reaction I would like to create is for somebody, who in his life has been homophobic, to come to a gig and mistake me for a woman for the first half of the gig, and actually think I was quite cute, and then discover that I was a bloke and have to ask themselves some questions about themselves."
Similar to post-new wave band The Cure,Without You I'm Nothing , which is filled with twisted love songs that often end in heartbreak and loneliness, triumphs in it's own misery.
Opening with the sonic stomp of "Pure Morning" and then blasting into the bombastic "Brick S**thouse", complete with an abusive rhythm and urgent vocals, Placebo could be accused of leaving their listeners violated, if it just didn't feel so good. They mellow things down a bit on the reflective "Ask For Answers" and the introspective number "The Crawl" before turning up the heat again on the catchy "Every You Every Me" and kamikaze attack of "Scared Of Girls".
Although the number "You Don't Care About Us" starts off with a text-book 'I'm-so-happy-I-could-die' Cure rhythm, Molko quickly dispenses of any further comparisons with his unique, if not quirky, vocal delivery. The powerful title song "Without You I'm Nothing" proves to be one of the album's highlights with Molko's begging vocals, shimmering guitar and climactic song structure.
While Placebo have a great handle on wielding memorable melodies and are well versed in pop sensibilities, as are many of their Brit-pop counterparts, they take their music to a new level by dressing it up with sonic soundscapes and making it all a little more dangerous with eyeliner and lipstick.

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