"A hard pill to swallow whole"
Georgetown Voice, Sep'96
19 Sept 1996
by Jake Gerli
Placebo - substitute for the real Britpop? Maybe not. Another glance sees through the charade. Not a look-alike, not a sing-along pill, it's a three-member band full of novel androgyny and depressive deception.
Frontman (woman?) Brian Molko dons tight-fitting flashy attire and cakes his face with a layer of somber make-up. Singing with a strained, high-pitched voice, he immerses himself in the bruised angst of conspicuous ambiguity. Or perhaps, his nail-painting and waifish slump are attempts to blur the lines, to escape the intrusive world of pigeon-holed reality. There's definite tension in this group's music - a relentless love-and-hate "Who am I?"
Take the "Teenage Angst", the second track on Placebo's self titled first album. "Since I was born I started to decay / now nothing ever goes my way," sings Molko. Lyrics float above a moving, whining melodic tune reminiscent of the name of the band's own label - Elevator Music. With this dreamy nonsense for a no-think rainy day, you could coast alone through the streets claimed by urban decay.
Placebo itself hails from the typically overcast south of Great Britain - from a city called London. But none of the members are English. Backing up the Luxemborg-born American Molko are two Swedes, Stefan Olsdal on bass and Robert Schultzberg on drums. Towering figures, they dwarf the diminutive Molko only in statue.
As the singer, songwriter, guitarist and transvestite, Molko takes most of the credit. He writes catchy pop with a twist - an anomaly considering his self-made world of sunken gloom and drug-induced escapes. Molko and his fellows pursue drabness and shade-cloaked self-deprecation with a dry, black sense of humor and churning, harmonic guitar playing.
Like everything else about its nature, though, Placebo's locus seems to be just halfway somewhere. Perhaps it's waiting on the bridge to music's fogged-in future. For it's time and it's place, it satisfies. But, there's this nagging, irrational feeling it might be a fake.