"A Terse Outsider Enumerates His Woes"

NY Times, Sep'96

The New York Times

30 Sept 1996

by Jon Pareles

Brian Molko, the guitarist and singer of Placebo, is no optimist. "Since I was born I started to decay," he sang when the three-man band performed on Thursday. "Now nothing ever ever goes my way."

Placebo, based in London, includes one American, Mr.Molko, and two Swedes, Stefen Olsdal on bass and Robert Schultzberg on drums. But in Placebo's songs, Mr. Molko sounds like someone who might be an outsider wherever he happened to be.

His troubles - sexual uncertainty, loneliness, introversion - are encapsulated in terse, transparent songs. In a set drawn mostly from, the band's debut album, "Placebo" (Caroline/Elevator Music), Placebo reworked the first wave of post-punk rock, particularly New Order, the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, early U2 and Talking Heads. The songs were barbed but diffident at their core, and they aimed for the compression of aphorisms. In "Lady of the Flowers", he sang, "She stole the keys to my house / and then she locked herself out."

With fast Morse Code syncopation or unswerving midtempo strums, Mr.Molko doled out dissonant guitar chords that tugged against bass riffs and drum cross-rhythms far below. He has a scrawny, nasal tenor voice, similar to that Perry Farrell in Jane's Addiction. On stage, made up in eyeliner, mascara, lipstick and silver nail polish, he fixed the crowd with a calm stare, as if the songs were no more no less than he wanted to say. "Allocate your sentiment and stick it in a box, " he advised in "36 Degrees".

The music was focused, under control and memorable; outside it, things might just go wrong.