15th February 1997
SMOKE fills the room as a thousand sex-dwarf aliens squeal their approval to the leatherette king. He is near. He high-voiced wizard of noisy melancholy. Affluent jet trash of curious parentage. "Brian!" they cry in several accurately conjugated European languages, all of them tortured. "We have seen the light!"
You join us in the court of the new martyr, where the touchstones are the pain of Richey Manic and the pout of Courtney Love. A place where the people have momentarily forgotten how Louise Wener touched the very fabric of their being with that song about driveways, and have turned instead to something darker. A slightly bizarre world where Placebo's song 'Nancy Boy' can reach Number Four in the charts, yet still be about weird sex and have a video featuring a bass player in a leather one-piece.
So we await a change. But as appealing as the idea is of 'Nancy Boy' promoting a new wave of morbid introspection and sexual deviancy among the young ("Father, I am leaving the truncheon business for good, and seek instead to find happiness with mediaeval sexual appliances"), Cambridge on a Sunday night does not do debauched; and barely acknowledges cosmopolitan. Here there are no disco dollies, no suppressed surburban fetishists. No, tonight the Placebo revolution can be registered solely by the fact that near the back there are a couple of chaps wearing make-up. Oooh! And neither of them can accessorise.
It works more subtly than that, you see. What Placebo are is a new and exciting evil in occasionally familiar clothes: theirs is a world of blanched dissipation - and what adolescent has not yearned to dissipate themselves once or twice in an area of outstanding natural beauty? - weary of hotels and tired of life. Brian Molko is the androgynous face of the 'unacceptable'. Role reversals? Great lays? No problem. Caesarean section? Erection? Go ahead. Have that erection on him.
Placebo lure them in to mosh, and then they do their thing. And were it not for this, it would be rather less easy to like them. The tremendously clinical way in which they sound so deliberately soulless (because the world's an unfeeling place, boss). The occasionally winceworthy nature of Brian's 'I have seen it all, like the bored spoilt child I am, and have tired of it' stage anecdotes. The fact that nobody seems to have noticed that they sound quite a lot like The Wedding Present...all of these could make Placebo tremendously dull were it not for the fact that they are subtly perverting our children under the cloak of indie pop.
They may have gone to dance, parents. But by the time they return, they are no longer yours.
So on comes Brian wearing something saucy and alters a couple of pop stereotypes, just by showing up. Short? Get him on a box. Maybe a higher box. His voice a ludicrously hammed-up transatlantic whine, he is an open invitation to take the piss. His bass player a new-wave Herman Munster, Brian Molko sets himself up as a target and relishes its power.
With acute observational nous, a heckler has a go.
Brian is amused.
He is not moved. In fact, with malice in his heart, Brian bounces. Transported by the increasingly violent nature of his muse - increasing in festering pestilence from 'Come Home' to 'Bruise Pristine' and reaching a poisonous climax with the new 'Brick Shithouse' ("about getting beaten to death," chirps Brian) - Brian leaps about as he corrupts the young. Drawn in by the likes of 'Nancy Boy', the people are quickly thrown into the abyss of horrible noise and, strangely, they are loving it. And he is smiling, for he has swapped instruments with his bass player and embarks on an eerie ten-minute jam. Smiling particularly because it could soon be on the Evening Session.
As it crackles and fades, the novice sex dwarves gather up the spilled angst from the floor and , their ears filled with new and contorted noise, they resolve to banish Sleeper from their lives. Yeah, the revolution could well be rubberised. And it might even get on telly, too.