On countless occasions, I’ve been told variations of the following: “Rebecca, you have the weirdest taste in music.” “Rebecca, you do realise no one cares about Placebo any more, right?” “Rebecca, how on earth can you work at NME when you have such awful taste in music? Placebo, really?”
To be fair, I probably should be slightly embarrassed by some of the music I listen to. I’m no stranger to occasionally belting some Aaron Carter classics… But ashamed of loving Placebo? Never.
I’ll admit that Placebo aren’t really your typical “NME band”, and they’re not “cool”. Brian Molko once said that Placebo are a band “for outsiders, by outsiders” and that their gigs are “like conventions of outcasts”. While I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself an outsider or an outcast (then again, who does?), I can see where he’s coming from. They don’t really fit into any particular musical pigeonhole. They’re rock, but they’re glammier than most. But not like New York Dolls-we-all-wear-heels-and-women’s-clothes glam (OK, well, Brian Molko used to be a bit of that kind of glam). More like a modern glam – less about the glitter, more about the sexual ambiguity (there’s a gay man, a bisexual man and a straight man in the band, and they’ve used that mixed sexuality to their advantage).
Everyone seemed to generally be on board with Placebo in the band’s early days, but it appears that somewhere along the way (maybe circa ‘Meds’ era in 2006?), the general public began to turn on them. While it might not have been their best album to date, to some, Placebo have unfortunately become a bit of a joke. But shall we all take a moment to just remember how great they really are?
We recently ran a poll on NME.com to search for the best album of the past 15 years, and to everyone’s amazement in the office (including my own), Placebo’s 1998 release ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ won by a landslide, after users voted more than 3 million times. Sure, if you’re a cynic, you can discount the results and look at it as a street team attack by the band’s most dedicated fans, but you can’t deny that this feat proves that Placebo are still relevant, and that I’m not the only one out there who still gives a shit about them.
While ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ might not actually be the best album of the past 15 years, it’s safe to say that it’s definitely an overlooked, underrated classic that’s worthy of a top spot. Released during what was probably the band’s finest moment in their musical career, their second studio album was home to some of the best songs the band have ever released. From the devastatingly emotive album artwork to the heart-wrenchingly distraught lyrics (most notably in ‘My Sweet Prince’, which is said to have been inspired by a former girlfriend of Molko’s who had committed suicide), the album is dripping in a darkness that stems from something much deeper than your average “emo” (a category which many now lump the band into) band might produce.
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And since releasing that record more than ten years ago, the band have gone on to release four more spine-tinglingly stunning albums. Fair enough, their music might not be your personal cup of tea, but it’s worth recognising the fact that their career isn’t dead and that Brian Molko isn’t a balding, washed-up rockstar, as many people try to convince me he is. Word has it they’ll be starting on album number seven soon and frankly, I can’t wait. Call me an outsider or an outcast or whatever you like – but I’m sure as hell not alone.