"Placebo Having An Effect On The U.S."

Billboard, Oct'98

by Doug Reece

10 oct 1998

Virgin act Placebo is already beginning to click at modern rock radio with "Pure Morning", the lead single from its sophomore effort, "Without You I'm Nothing."

Budding mainstream airplay of the track in Placebo's U.K. home base, where it is signed directly to Hut Records, was an early indication that the act was on the verge or reaching a wide audience.

In the U.S., stations like KROQ Los Angeles, WXRK New York, KITS San Francisco, and KNND Seattle have already committed to "Pure Morning" -- an immediately hooky cut that's mildly reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers' successful "Pepper."

"I personally feel this is one of the most compelling-sounding albums to come out of England since Radiohead," says KROQ assistant PD Gene Sandbloom. "["Pure Morning"] is very unique, very alternative, and just something that immediately stands out on the air."

Meanwhile, a glorious concept video for the song, directed by Nick Gordon, had gotten MTV's nod.

Comparing initial reactions to "Pure Morning" to that for the Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony," Virgin (U.S.) co-president Ray Cooper says such positive feedback inspired the label to push up the album's release date from early 1999 to Nov. 3.

"There were overwhelming reasons to bring this forward, including having the single debut so high in the U.K. and the incredible enthusiasm that's coming from our radio staff," he says. "We feel we're going to deliver this record on the charts that matter and go really heavy at retail. They are being featured in the press and at several radio Christmas shows. It just seemed to make sense to capitalize on that momentum."

According to Cooper, the initial pressing for "Without You I'm Nothing" is 50,000 units. That's a sizeable jump from the modest 6,100 units that Caroline sold of the band's self-titled 1997 debut, according to SoundScan.

The London-based trio, which consists of American-born {sic} singer Brian Molko, British drummer Steve Hewitt, and Swedish bassist/guitarist/keyboardist Stefan Olsdal, has long enjoyed a respectable following.

Comparing "Placebo" to "Without You I'm Nothing", Olsdal describes the latter as "more schizophrenic." The band's music is published by Famous Music, Elevator Lady Limited/ASCAP.

"'Pure Morning' shows [us] heading to a more loop-based sound," says Olsdal. "There was a punk element that we had that was put into the first record, as well as a lot of youthful energy and some tension because there were some people we weren't getting along with at the time.

"On this album, we wanted to go away from that classic rock sound toward a more modern sound," he adds. "It's more textured with expensive toys. On the first album, we were using toy instruments."

Olsdal also cites the band's reunion with drummer Hewitt and the enlistment of producer Steve Osborne as important factors in the act's new direction.

The act, which is booked by Creative Artists Agency and managed by the U.K.-based Riverman Management, will play an industry trade show on Nov. 6. Before returning during the first quarter of 1999 for more intense touring, Placebo will make a dozen appearances at radio festivals during the holiday season.

Placebo has had plenty of experience winning over crowds not entirely familiar with the band. The act toured with David Bowie and U2 in Europe and opened for Weezer in the U.S.

"A lot of people were there just to hear 'Buddy Holly,'" says Olsdal of its less-than-warm U.S. welcome. "We were getting coined [having coins thrown at you by the audience], so we just punked it up and ended up winning over a lot of crowds."

As part of a happy coincidence, the label's moving up of the album release date corresponds nicely with the November/December release of Miramax's glam-rock-era film "Velvet Goldmine", which includes a cameo of Placebo band members performing a cover of Marc Bolan's "20th Century Boy."

"We got dressed up in these ridiculous glam clothes and a lot of makeup and strut around onstage," says Olsdal. "It was a bit like being on a video shoot."