dotmusic.com "The Original Nancy Boys", Jul'98


At a time when labels are finding it more difficult than ever to sell their guitar bands' "difficult" second albums, it's surprising to see Hut make such a bold move with the choice of the next Placebo single. The sublimely cool Pure Morning (out on August 3) is released 18 months after Nancy Boy shot the multinational trio into the top five of the singles chart and pushed UK sales of their eponymously-titled debut album to more than 150,000. It's a surprise because the single is a more mid-tempo, coolly tempered sound than the kind of punkish drama the band are known for. It also has a newly-added electronic tinge, but the result is equally mesmeric.

Moreover, Hut MD Dave Boyd feels confident it will not only firm up their fanbase in the UK and Europe, but provide a springboard to greater, international success. "We could have released Nancy Boy part two but everyone involved wanted to come back with something that throws the gauntlet down rather than play it safe," says Boyd, who admits that the choice of single is intentionally meant to surprise people. "It's a very contemporary track too, which is a nod to the future." Pure Morning actually emerged from a session of B-sides produced by Phil Vinall (Six By Seven, Libido, Black Box Recorder) that Placebo recorded after completing their new album with producer Steve Osbourne (Happy Mondays, U2, Headswim, Embrace).

Swedish bassist Stefan Olsdal, who co-writes all the band's material with US lead singer/guitarist Brian Molko, is confident that Pure Morning is the right choice. "I do think it's a catchy 'we're back' type of single, but one with a twist. It'll grab the attention of Placebo fans but also the kind of people who haven't been fans before. It has a crossover quality," he says. Alex Weston, who partners Dave McLean in Riverman Management (better known as specialist concert promoters for the likes of the MTV Five Nights, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana), confirms the unanimous support for the new single. "It's not indicative of the band's new direction or something. It just stood right out," she says. "It needs a couple of listens, but then it's pretty hard to get out of your head. It's a risk, but one worth taking."

All parties have been keeping tight-lipped about the as-yet-untitled album (due for release in October), which was only finally mixed a fortnight ago at Whitfield St. "We're now free to move on" - Stefan Oldsal. But the elements which so many people identified with - predominantly the darker take on pop with an undercurrent of sexual confusion - will not have disappeared. Unconfirmed tracks are understood to include: the fast-paced, punky, staple-Placebo number Burger Queen; the slower, climbing ballad My Sweet Prince; and the maturer-sounding The Crawl, complete with Placebo's trademark tinny guitar and winding vocals.