Independent On Sunday
by Nicholas Barber
9 Feb 1997
...Placebo are reminiscent of Nirvana from time to time, too: there are few other bands whose rhythm sections are so judderingly powerful that you fear for the lives of those teenagers pogoing next to the wobbling speaker stacks. Luckily, the trio have plenty of other records in their collection. Those stuttering, trebly guitar chords bring to mind Ash, Manic Street Preachers, Marion, and a handful od American indie bands - although based in London, their singer/guitarist, Brian Molko, is a New Yorker. The resulting compound is glam-grunge, for want of a better label, with the glam half provided by the androgynous Molko and his love-it-or-hate-it Muppet whine.
The only failing of Placebo's taut show last Saturday was its repetitiveness. After the tenth careening, preening punk blast, such as their current hit single "Nancy Boy", I had to fight the urge to shout: "You've mastered that song! Try a different one!!!" But there was no need. In the second half of the show there were enough atmospheric tunes which aren't on Placebo's debut album to suggest that the band themselves realise they have already outgrown it.
Some people have called Placebo gothic. They have called themselves "The Boyzone of Indie". If the first description is inaccurate and the second ironic, the two added together are close to the truth. By writing songs that make proud reference to sex, anatomical features and feelings of alienation, and by throwing in some pseudo-profound, pseudo-rebellious banalities, Placebo serve the valuable function of providing a dress-code for the people who don't fit into the Boyzone clique at school, of elevating adolescent disgruntlement until it is a symptom of uniqueness and creativity. It's the same role that was filled by the Doors, Pink Floyd and The Jesus and Mary Chain in their respective eras, and it's the only reason that goth bands exist at all.