"What Is Real, And What Is Placebo?"

Real Detroit Weekly, Mar'99

Mar 18th 1999

"We like to provoke strong reactions in people," admits 24-year-old bassist Stefan Oldsdal. "Indifference is something we try to avoid, sometimes that leads to confusion, or anger, or interest - but you can never really predict the outcome."

Now Oldsdal and his bandmates - 25-year-old vocalist Brian Molko and 27-year-old drummer Steve Hewitt - take that provocative stance to new heights. Without You I'm Nothing, their Virgin debut, shows the London-based trio thriving on ambiguity, uncertainty, and pure, glorious noise.

With its crushing groove and instantly identifiable vocals, debut single/video "Pure Morning" (which debut on the UK single charts at #4) introduces the album on a bold note. Through a dozen tracks, the mood varies from bruisingly confrontational (e.g. "You Don't Care About Us," "Every You Every Me," "Scared Of Girls") to wistfully introspective ("Ask For Answers," and "Summer's Gone").

Molko readily acknowledges the personal nature of his lyrics delivered with a variety of thematic twists: "Most of these are love songs where I'm trying to come to grips with relationships. They're frequently told from the point of view of ex-lovers, so at first it may seem like I'm being arrogant, but actually I'm eating humble pie. I'm cutting open a vein and letting it bleed for you."

Without You I'm Nothing represents a thematic progression from the group's auspicious debut. "The first album was a very sexual record," said Molko, "packed full of youthful vigor and lust. The new album is introverted, more of a post-coital depression: the comedown. It deals with an ever-prevading heartbreak and loneliness that seems to be in the air. The morning after is usually more analytical than the night before, and it's often more painful."

More importantly, Without You I'm Nothing shows the group realizing the huge potential demonstrated so powerfully on 1996's Placebo. The growth process has been punctuated by live shows - tackling a busy schedule of international touring throughout late 1996 and 1997, Placebo's itinerary included numerous European dates supporting U2 on the Popmart Tour. The group's US touring was highlighted by a January, 1997 show at New York's Madison Square Garden as special guests at David Bowie's 50th birthday party.

On Without I'm Nothing the trio attacks their musical pursuits with renewed focus and energy.

"There's two years between the two albums, and there's been a hell of a lot of living going on during that time," admitted Molko. "In many ways it feels like a different band. This is the first album with Steve on drums, and the band dynamic has changed. It can seem a bit schizophrenic, but we're just trying to take it as far as possible in each direction; stretch it, and aim for a wider scope."