All the appearance of a cure, all the reality of a disease
In medicine, for a placebo to work, the patient has to have absolute faith in the sugar pill they’ve been given. In this case, with a prayer on their glossed lips and nail varnished fingers crossed behind their back it’s entirely possible for the mentally or physically infirm to experience all the benefits of a great band. And it’s true that in parts ‘Battle For The Sun’, Placebo’s fifth studio album, will give the open-minded/easily-fooled aspartame butterflies in the stomach, methadone iris dilation and nicotine-patch heart tremors. By far and away the best song here, ‘Ashtray Heart’ is named after the band’s initial, 15-year-old incarnation, and has the closest to a ‘classic’ Placebo sound. Elsewhere, however, the synthetic, breezy Britpop of ‘Kings Of Medicine’ and the subpar Primal Scream-style Dixie-rock honking of ‘For What It’s Worth’ point to what this album’s really about: a desperately transparent copy of originality. For those who still believe in them, Placebo will, at least, remain an efficacious live band at festivals this summer, but only given that the real thing (Suede, Muse, David Bowie, Nirvana et al) isn’t currently on offer.