Placebo has long been a definitive alternative rock band, since their debut self-titled album dropped in 1996. The 3 piece band have long been known for their experimental and grungy sound, straying little from their original recipe for success over the years. With the rerelease of Meds and Sleeping With Ghosts around the corner it seemed apparent that a refresher look over the tracks was in order, and they sound just as glorious as ever.
Title track Meds starts things off with an acoustic guitar, and features Alison Mosshart. A powerful beginner to this record, the two vocal parts act as a couple, with both asking ‘baby did you forget to take your meds?’ The repetitive nature of this ensures it will be in your mind long after you last listened to it, this could however be a play on how medication affects ones memory and ability to recall doing something.
Infra-red carries the album on with a punchy drumbeat, the chorus’ ‘I’m coming up on infra-red, there is no running that can hide you, cause I can see in the dark’ paired with the eerie instrumentals. This is a track truly representative of ‘classic’ Placebo, with the somewhat disconnected sounding vocals from Molko running alongside a pounding drum rhythm.
Clean guitar picking introduces Follow the Cops Back Home which straight off the mark could fit in comfortably on Without You I’m Nothing. Building momentum before peaking at a bridge, the guitar work on this song is nothing short of fantastic; this is one of their songs that truly make you feel the music.
A growling bass line and eerie instrumental start Post Blue, lyrics such as ‘it’s in the water baby, it’s in the pills that bring you down’ are repetitive, alongside the rhyming scheme it is used in and the guitar, after a few listens you’ll find yourself singing along. The distorted bridge on this track takes the track down a step, but it’s a interesting, emotively driven step that places more emphasis on Molko’s lyrics.
Broken Promise begins with a solitary piano, before breaking into a full band, then returning to the piano. Repeated underlying lyrics ‘a promise is a promise’ is almost a subliminal message, nearly hidden in the haunting almost screeching guitar towards the end of the song.
Switching the vibe up completely, One of a Kind has more of a groove to it than previous tracks. A sudden jarring from the guitar picks things up and speeds them along, the keyboard effects coming in just after halfway through are almost haunting. This track has a lot more layers to it than some of the others on Meds and it’s noticeably more interesting to listen to and it’s easy to find ones self trying to pick out all the different parts present.
Rounding off the album Song to Say Goodbye pairs a delicate piano piece with a grumbling bass line. This comes off as being a track that would be interesting to hear in a live music setting, with the different aspects of it, lyrics like ‘this is a song to say goodbye’ could even lead it to be a set closer. It’s clear, however, that this was the perfect end to the album as it sums up everything Placebo are; experimental, guaranteed to end up in your head and technically fantastic.
Sleeping With Ghosts
Bulletproof Cupid throws listeners straight into the thick of things with a powerhouse of an instrumental introduction. Despite having no vocals on this track, the guitar almost acts in place of them; this track is beyond all doubt a complete masterpiece and the perfect way to get the album flying.
Second track English Summer Rain starts with backing electronic instrumentals that sound almost like rain falling. An obviously relatable song to every British person, this explores Placebo’s experimental side, with a grooving bass line and a selection of electronic samples, however the vocal style is pure classic Placebo as are the effects used over them.
Title track Sleeping With Ghosts begins with a slow and easy to listen to acoustic guitar paired with a keyboard. The samples used in this track speed it up slightly, and ultimately it’s a beautiful piece. The guitar part is almost piercing, which when coupled with the lyrics, it’s a song that can be very emotive.
The Bitter End, a track that many who don’t follow Placebo will know, straight from the jarring guitar intro and bouncing bass line, this is Placebo at their best. Lyrics like ‘Feels a lot like suicide, slow and sad, grown inside us’ are the core of Placebo and this bridge, with it’s electronic samples and howling guitar parts is just pure bliss.
Jumping into the deep end, Plasticine is a declaration of being yourself, depicted in lyrics like ‘don’t forget to be the way you are’. In a world where changing ones self is an everyday occurrence, this song holds relevance as well as being easy on the ears. Despite the repetition of the song, this track holds its own and carries a positive message often lost in today’s music.
An interesting almost war-drum beat starts I’ll Be Yours which comes as close to a ballad as Placebo manage on this album. The underlying melody hints towards the track building up to a peak, which ultimately is it dropping back to drums, vocals and guitar at their simplest forms. Despite this not having screeching guitars overlaying samples, it’s still Placebo on fine form and gives the album a breather for a few minutes.
Closer Centrefolds is another Placebo style ballad, a beautiful combination of gentle instrumental and lyrics. This depicts Molko waiting for someone, ‘it’s wrong I’ve been waiting far too long, for you to be mine’. An almost hauntingly ambient song, with the potential to be huge when played live, this is a perfect end to Sleeping With Ghosts.
The reissue of both of these albums is a second chance for people who haven’t heard of or didn’t quite get into Placebo the first time around to hear about them and appreciate their music. Between the two albums, there is a bit of everything Placebo and they are real highlights of the genre in which the band sit. With a tour in support of this rerelease fast approaching, it’s worth refreshing some of the best alternative rock in your mind beforehand.