PICzine "Black Market Music", Spring 2002

Black Market Music
4 1/2 stars out of 5

I've always been vaguely interested in Placebo's music but never actually bought any. I first got hold of this album on mp3. It's bloody excellent. No two ways about it. So I've finally bought the album and wish I'd made more of an effort to see them at the Witnness festival. Whilst I know Brian Molko's voice and subject matters don't appeal to everyone, I recommend giving it a listen. Placebo have matured their sound and the result is Black Market Music. Right from the opening track Taste In Men, you know you're listening to something very interesting. There's so much going on in this one track - lots of background noise to listen to whilst remaining melodic and Brian’s distinguished vocals on top. Days Before You Came opens jumping head first into a lively guitar riff and at just two and a half minutes long finishes a little prematurely. But no matter because it's followed by the superb Special K. We are then thrown into the unexpected rap of Spite & Malice - which delivers all the title promises. Opening with LA rapper, Justin Warfield singing "Dope, guns, f***ing in the streets... Revolution". Mixing rock with rap, this is one of my favorite tracks on the album. We then drop a tempo for Passive-Aggressive (another big favorite of mine) as we're told "Its in your reach. Concentrate". Black-eyed moves the tempo back up as the song skips "borderlining schizco" between the grungey guitars and the clear cut vocals. Brian’s vocals at his smoothest on Blue American which is a ghostlike tune with wry lyrics. Tempo up again though for their hit single, Slave To The Wage, as we're told to "wave your worries, your cares, goodbye" as life is compared to being "a race for rats to die". Commercial For Levi, about someone who gets his kicks from living dangerously, wouldn’t be out of place if dedicated to the late Michael Hutchinson or someone similar. The lyrics don't leave much to the imagination. Brian sympathizes, "I understand the fascination. I've even been there once or twice or more." but goes on to warn, "if you don't change you situation then you'll die". Its a powerful song on a taboo subject. Haemoglobin blasts in with alot of electricity and interference - only pausing from song to say "now my feet don't touch the ground". Narcoleptic offers a dreamlike wakeup call as we're told "you'd better keep it in check, or you'll end up a wreck, and you'll never wake up". And suddenly you realize it's the last track - Peeping Tom. A lonely sounding, almost Radiohead tune, closing with "I'm weightless, I'm bare, I'm faithless, I'm scared." Fortunately, and depending on the version of the album bought, you may have some bonus tracks. On the UK version there’s a Secret Track which is a dark instrumental. And on the US version you get Without You I'm Nothing featuring David Bowie, I Feel You - a Depeche Mode cover, and a hidden track which I'll call Black Market Blood. They also did a cover of Robert Palmer's Johnny & Mary as a b-side on the Taste In Men single which was the closing track on my mp3 playlist. It's an excellent upbeat cover and makes a great closing tune which I'd recommend getting hold of if you can. You can listen to this album loads - the tracks flow almost seamlessly. Rare for an album with so many songs that stand out on their own right. Playing the whole album really draws you in. You can loose yourself whilst listening to it and you're always surprised at how quickly time passes. Go on stick it on repeat and become immersed.