Where To Start With... Placebo
Emerging in the mid-1990s as something of an outlier between the waning grunge scene and the emerging Britpop era, Anglo-American alt-rock outfit Placebo quickly made an impact with early hits like ‘Nancy Boy’, a song whose provocative lyrics sat neatly alongside the androgynous, part-glam-part-goth image of their frontman and chief creative force, Brian Molko.
Formed in London by Molko and bassist Stefan Olsdal, Placebo enjoyed a string of hits and unit-shifting albums, particularly in the UK, over the years between their eponymous 1995 debut album and their most recent LP, Loud Like Love, which arrived all the way back in 2013.
During that time the band’s line-up shifted and altered several times and in the years that have elapsed since Loud Like Love’s arrival the band have also parted ways with Steve Forrest, who replaced original drummer Steve Hewitt in 2008, leaving Molko and Olsdal as their band’s only remaining core members.
Though they’ve continued to tour consistently in recent years, things had been very quiet on the new material front until 2019, when the band finally announced that they were working on their eight studio album. Due to various factors, however – not least the global pandemic – the album’s journey to release took a little longer than expected.
Now, though, Placebo return almost a decade after Loud Like Love with their brand new album Never Let Me Go, which makes its grand entrance into our stores this Friday (March 25) and includes their recent singles ‘Beautiful James’ and ‘Happy Birthday in the Sky’ – the latter of which you can find below. Beneath that we’ve picked out five key tracks from Placebo’s story so far to celebrate their long-awaited return…
Featured on their self-titled debut LP, ‘Nancy Boy’ was the fifth and final single from the album to be released, of which only ‘Teenage Angst’ had broken into the Top 40, but it proved to the band’s breakthrough hit in the UK, breaking into the top five. Filled with sexual innuendo, Brian Molko once said of the sings unexpected success: “It's obscene. A song this rude should not be number four in the charts.”
Most fans of the band might’ve picked out ‘Every You, Every Me’ from the band’s sophomore LP Without You I’m Nothing – an equally good choice – but we’ve gone for ‘Pure Morning’ almost purely on he basis that includes the immortal lyric: “A friend in need’s a friend indeed / A friend with weed is better”. But ‘Pure Morning’ does also hold the distinction of being Placebo’s joint highest-charting single along with ‘Nancy Boy’.
‘Slave to the Wage’
One of the highlights of Placebo’s third album Black Market Music, ‘Slave to the Wage’ is arguably one of their most relatable songs, but also manages to simultaneously name-check Bob Dylan and sample 90s slacker heroes Pavement in one sitting. The single arrived at the tail end of 2000 and came complete with a Howard Greenhalgh-dircted video inspired by dystopian sci-fi Gattaca.
‘The Bitter End’
Taken from their 2003 album Sleeping with Ghosts, 'The Bitter End' is perhaps one of Placebo’s most enduring hits, teaming frenetic drums with fizzing guitars and a bittersweet melody that makes for a highlight of their fearsome live sets.
‘Song to Say Goodbye’
There are many other tracks we could have chosen here, not least Placebo’s wonderful cover of Kate Bush hit ‘Running Up That Hill’, but our final pick features on the band’s 2006 album Meds and is probably one of the real standouts on the LP for most fans, propelled by duelling piano and guitar melodies that give this anthemic tune a haunting edge.
Never Let Me Go is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.