"Brian's mummy smokes crack "

Evening Standard, Nov'00

Nov 2, 2000

Brian's mummy smokes crack

Placebo @ Brixton Academy

by Max Bell

AS photos from an old high-school year book flashed behind him, bearing slogans like "My mummy smokes crack," "Daddy is my lover" and "Dead at thirteen", you couldn't help pondering whether Brian Molko was plotting revenge on the entire hateful world, or merely pockets of conformity.

The Placebo lead singer, a charming fellow in person, seems to excite polarised opinions. The NME thinks he's one of the biggest charlatans in popular musical history, whereas the Melody Maker takes the opposite tack. A recent vox pop in the latter paper found ecstatic fans declaring: "I would do anything for Brian, he's the sexiest man on earth. His eyes, body, hair, trousers ..."

No wonder their last single was called Taste In Men.

With friends like that who needs the NME? In fact Molko, his wafer- thin Swedish bassist friend Stefan Olsdal and powerhouse drummer Steve Hewitt were in the company of the committed last night, as they unveiled their latest album Black Market Music to an Academy of Placebo students.

The opening Black-Eyed set the tone. Molko's choppy metal rhythms and the ferocious throb of the duster-coated Olsdal put glam rock through the mangle, while retina-scorching strobes and lights heightened the atmosphere - frenetic rather than truly menacing.

Post-grunge by nature, Placebo have their own musical language, summed up in tracks such as Teenage Angst, Nancy Boy and You Don't Care About Us.

Alienation is on the agenda but it isn't the bitter hatred of Nirvana, or the nihilism of US punk; a dressed up, party on regardless fervour, is at work instead.

A slight man of few words on stage, Molko has the charisma which won him a part in Velvet Goldmine and brought him to the attention of David Bowie, who used to know how to work a crowd of likeminded acolytes. The Placebo effect is obviously shattering.