"Placebo POP: Dingwalls, London"

The Guardian, Feb'96

The Guardian

Manchester - Feb 8, 1996

Placebo POP: Dingwalls, London


A LITTLE gender-uncertainty never hurt any band, and it might prove the making of Placebo. The Swedish-American trio is fortunate in boasting a singer, Brian Molko (the American), who is ambiguous enough to enrapture the sexually-confused, yet just robust enough not to alienate the lads. This versatility must have figured in the record-company bidding war that took place just after Christmas, landing Placebo with the kind of fat contract new bands fantasise about.

But the band is more than just one pretty and two average faces. Their thumping guitar-based sound is, so the pundits predict, where rock is going this year. It's been there many times before, of course, but this time the way was paved by 1995's Britpop-mania, its diametric opposite.

With just two singles under their belts, Placebo sold out this Camden club, which was heaving with hormone-throbbing youth. The tiny Molko was the object of their desire, reducing bassist Stefan Olsdal and drummer Robert Schultzberg to the role of sidemen, which they'll have to get used to because Placebo are a U2 of tomorrow.

Musically, the show is Molko's. While the other two assist by looking pensive and giving the sound depth, his octave-leaping, deceptively female voice and guitar-playing are the axis. He stood, eyes closed, in a black bob and Bond Girl 007 T-shirt, extracting the lyrics from somewhere deep inside without a jot of self-consciousness. Given the earnestness of some of the songs, that's quite something. Furthermore, Molko's ideas are contained in a remarkably tight framework: songs last three minutes, the entire set 25.

Placebo's post-Britpop, post-everything dramatics could be a winner. Lock up your sons.