Out "Sleeping With Ghosts", May'03

by Barry Walters

Ever since Placebo came out as the U.K.-based goth-punk trio with the gay bassist and the bi singer-guitarist, they have won many hearts of rock lovin' homos. Huge in Europe and cult heroes here, the broody threesome not only appeared in Todd Haynes's celluloid love letter to '70s glitter, Velvet Goldmine, but also completed the circle by featuring David Bowie on their single "Without You I'm Nothing." Their fourth album, Sleeping With Ghosts, lacks the immediacy of previous highs yet compensates by fine-tuning the band's guitar din and orchestrating it with electronics. Having worked with trip-hoppers Sneaker Pimps as well as with DJ Shadow, producer Jim Abbiss steers Placebo into unfamiliar extremes, like the surging, ricocheting dub of "Something Rotten" and the climactic thrash of "The Bitter End." Throughout, front man Brian Molko seethes with alternating anguish and ambivalence, picking up where Smashing Pumpkins left off.