"Without You I'm Nothing review"

Newsday, 1998

by Tony Fletcher

Timing is half the battle in popular music: Many a great act has peaked just too early or late to ride the musical zeitgeist. Two years ago, at the time that Placebo's eponymous debut album was released, front man Brian Molko's acutely effeminate look and the band's lyrical alienation set Placebo clearly aside from the macho "laddism" of groups such as Oasis. Now, at the very moment the movie "Velvet Goldmine" has inspired a glam-rock revival, Placebo (which has a cameo role in that film as a club band at the movement's mid-'70s peak) has delivered the perfect late-'90s glam-rock album.

Placebo's newfound confidence is apparent from the introductory buzz / drone guitar and hollow drum beat of the anthemic opening song "Pure Morning," with Molko's nasal whine on lines such as "A friend in need's a friend indeed, a friend who bleeds is better." Themes of desire, aggression, decadence and female superiority are further explored through boldly titled songs such as "Scared of Girls," "Burger Queen" and "My Sweet Prince," with Molko frequently singing from a feminine perspective.

Musically, the mood ranges from a raucous glam-punk energy ("You Don't Care About Us") to an almost heavenly serenity ("Burger Queen"), with stops at several offbeat rock stations. During its frequent highlights, when Steve Hewitt's drumming and Stefan Olsdal's bass and keyboard playing combine with Molko's guitar work to indicate a band in controlled abandon, Placebo recalls the excitement of Jane's Addiction.

Similarly, in its moments of weakness (the meandering title track, the heroin chic references of "My Sweet Prince"), Molko in particular recalls Perry Farrell's destructive self-indulgence. Placebo's ride on the zeitgeist might yet prove as short-lived as some of its primary influences but, if this album is any indication, it promises to be explosive.