Placebo sound refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to take on all comers.
Julian Marszalek 2009-06-02
“I need a change of skin,” states Brian Molko in that idiosyncratic nasal delivery that’s become his trademark on album opener Kitty Litter. Though refusing to stray far from the tried and tested template of yore – that’ll be goth-rock shot through with a knowing pop sensibility that doffs its cap to spiritual mentors Marc Bolan and David Bowie – Placebo sound refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to take on all comers.
This, in part, is down to three crucial factors. New drummer Steve Forrest delivers a precision that combines power and definition and, as displayed on the title track, an ability to create narrative and texture as he progresses from percussive timekeeping to driving tubthumping.
Secondly, Tool knob-twiddler Dave Bottrill’s production has given Placebo the bite that’s been lacking in their most recent work and the results are sonically impressive. For What It’s Worth is a muscular display of controlled dynamics that rise from a whisper to a scream as elsewhere, Julien employs dance techniques as a lead-in to some impressive six-string bombast. This is a band reconnecting with what they do best and the consequence is an album that’s lacking in introspective artifice and solipsism.
The final component is the song writing. Though hardly breaking new ground, Placebo’s mastery of melody remains undiminished. The air-punching vim of Ashtray Heart betrays a fondness for Pet Shop Boys, its chorus evoking images of a leather-clad Neil Tennant and Breathe Underwater hurtles along with a sense of wild abandon.
There are, of course, some lyrical clunkers. Come Undone’s couplet of “You don’t know how you’re coming across/You act like you don’t give a toss” is shockingly lazy but in the main, Placebo have delivered sixth album that sounds far from being a release this deep into a lengthy career.