May 4, 2012

Placebo - Without You I'm Nothing (1998)

Without You I'm Nothing is Placebo's follow up to their '96 self-titled debut and it sees the band shyly expanding upon the themes they began exploring several years back. Brian Molko is the same androgynous, misdirected and conflicted mess of a human being and his personality permeates each and every song, even though the band claims it was a joint effort.

The album opens with one of Placebo's most well-known songs, Pure Morning, in which Molko celebrates his friendship with women, asserting that "A friend in need's a friend indeed, a friend who bleeds is better", hypnotically chanting his lyrics while a twangy guitar line and lots of distortion drape the background. From here on, though, Without You I'm Nothing becomes pretty hit-and-miss. On one hand, there are exceptional tracks like Every Me Every You, one of my personal favorites, the energetic Allergic (to Thoughts of Mother Earth) or the tribal-influenced Scared of Girls, one of their more promiscuous songs. On the other hand, though, there are way too many slow songs caked in opaque, introspective lyrics that elude my understanding, such as Burger Queen, My Sweet Prince (with its thinly-veiled heroin abuse references) and, David Bowie's favorite, Without You I'm Nothing, which is the better of the bunch, thanks to Molko's passionate vocal delivery.

Don't get me wrong , Placebo still have a natural knack for melody, but, as a second album, Without You I'm Nothing isn't really pushing any envelopes - the band is content with swimming in roughly the same waters as before and relying on Brian Molko's odd frontman and main lyricist status to drive the music. Problem is, the music isn't driven very far and, apart from a handful of brilliant songs, the album doesn't quite live up to its predecessor. Thankfully, Placebo began experimenting with the music on their third album, which is where things really take a turn for the interesting. But that is a tale for another day.

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