"We're No Angels"

The Sun, Jan'99

Jan 22, 1999

by Mark Hodson

Gender bending may be old hat, but Brian Molko and Placebo have far more to offer than eyeliner and a few frocks, as MARK HODSON discovered

BRIAN MOLKO would like to put the record straight. Well, not exactly straight. The pouting, cross-dress ing lead singer of Placebo has never claimed to be straight.

But plenty of other insults have been bandied about.

"We get called f--ing faggots and much worse," says Molko in his mid Atlantic drawl. In fact, he explains, only the band's Swedish bass player Stefan Olsdal is gay.

Molko is bisexual and drummer Steve Hewitt, a Mancunian, is straight.

"Everything is represented in the three of us," says Molko.

"That's why we're dangerous."

Placebo clearly favour the in-your-face approach to sexuality. Following the success of their breakthrough single Nancy Boy, came songs with titles like Slackerbitch and Evil Dildo. Subtle, huh?

In interviews, too, Molko is not afraid to swing the hand bag. "We're the fags your girlfriends want to f--k," he declares, flexing his black- painted fingernails and flicking his mop of black hair. Molko, who has American parents but was brought up in Europe, delights that he is often mistaken for a girl.

"I would love somebody who hates gays to come to a gig, mistake me for a woman and think I was quite cute," he says.

When the band played Top Of The Pops he wore a dress.

Cynics might argue that all this has been done before.

David Bowie and Marc Bolan got there 25 years ago and many bands have plundered the same wardrobe since. True, and Placebo would be easy to dismiss if they didn't make such great music. Their second album, With out You I'm Nothing, is as tight and shiny as patent leather boots, and behind the lipgloss the songs are intense, infectious and rich in texture.

Placebo wear their musical influences on their sleeves. Last year they recorded the T. Rex classic, 20th Century Boy, for Velvet Goldmine. Their new single Every You Every Me sounds uncannily like REM at their storming, late 80s best.

It is perhaps no coincidence then that REM singer Michael Stipe is a fan, as are U2. Even Bowie has taken a shine to the young upstarts.

He invited Placebo to play at his 50th birthday party in Madison Square Garden and a duet is planned for next month's Brit Awards.

Now that he's a star, Molko admits to being "ambitious and naive" in the past, adding "I was rent-a-gob for a while."

Only for a while? Ah well, with luck Molko will learn to keep his mouth shut and let his weird and wonderful music do the talking.

Every You Every Me is out on January 25.