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July 11, 2008

Friday Is... Placebo Appreciation Day!

Actually, the past 7 days have been Placebo Appreciation Week (or PAW for short... hey, PAD and PAW! How very animalistic).

I first got into Placebo because of their storming debut single, "Nancy Boy". It was back in the days when some people still followed Top Of The Pops religiously and I was one of them.

At I sat, watching the idiot box, listening to the banality of the latest batch of trite pop songs, I was totally unprepared for the pure vitriolic goth rock that was about to spew from the speaker... and it wasn't just the music that thrilled me, it was the lyrical content. In less that 4 short minutes Placebo ripped the still-beating heart of gay music right out of the Jimmy Somervilles, Marc Almonds and countless divas, crushed it underfoot and painted the world black.

"Alcoholic kind of mood
Lose my clothes, lose my lube
Cruising for a piece of fun
Looking out for number one
Different partner every night
So narcotic, outta sight
What a gas, what a beautiful ass."

To say that Placebo weren't pulling any punches is an understatement. They were standing up onstage and saying, "You don't want to hear this stuff, well here it is IN YOUR FACE". At the time, for me, that really struck a chord. Cultural acceptance of homosexuality was nowhere near as widespread as it is now and I genuinely felt that society as a whole was trying to marginalise 'us'. Placebo's emergence made me feel that if society said it was acceptable for folk to be prejudiced against me then it was equally okay for me to stand up and give society the one-finger salute.

After hearing "Nancy Boy" I could hardly wait until the next morning to run down to the store and buy the album. To this day it is one of my favourite 'go to' discs. It's by no means perfect, it's not brilliantly produced, but it's a piece of my history and that makes it special to me. Placebo's music then and now is about single-note solos and driving power chords (ironically in 100% straight time). Their debut album turned out to not just play on gay themes, but was firmly rooted in androgeny and, basically, any subversive counter-culture. Placebo's fan base certainly isn't 100% gay, and rightly so. Their music is for anyone who wants a glimpse into an alternate, somewhat darker, reality.

"Nancy Boy" was released 12 years ago and I'm here to tell you that since then it's been a wild ride but y'know, both society and I have grown up immeasurably. Back then I would have never believed my family and friends would accept the person I love so willingly, that I would marry him and that our future together would seem so bright.

Placebo has grown up, too. In the period between then and now they released 4 more studio albums, the latest being "Meds". The middle three albums were all okay, but for me I was most consistently drawn to their first offering.

Until "Meds", that is. Placebo's sound evolved for this CD and I'm here to tell you that it's a great album. Truly great. I listened to "Placebo" and "Meds" back-to-back a couple of days ago and let me tell you, "Meds" eclipses "Placebo" in every way.

Ironically I dragged Tim (kicking and screaming) to see Placebo play live at the Alexandra Palace a few years back on the "Meds" tour (he loved it!) but I never got round to buying the CD until recently. I guess I just didn't feel like their brand of music was an essential part of me anymore. A couple of weeks ago, though, I picked it up at a 2 for £10 sale at HMV and I've been hooked on it ever since. Every track is superb. My current favourite is "Infra Red" which is basically a song about planned revenge...

"One last thing before I shuffle off the planet
I will be the one to make you crawl
So I came down to wish you and unhappy birthday
Someone call the ambulance
There's gonna be an accident

I'm coming up on infra red
There's no running that can hide you
'Cause I can see in the dark
I'm coming up on infra red
Forget your running, I will find you."

I've also just ordered their one and only live DVD, "Soulmates Never Die" (from Amazon Marketplace... cheap!). It's supposed to be a stormer. Somehow, I bet it is!


I was warned a while back by the erstwhile Axe Victim, Col of Magic Ship, that I should prepare myself for a frustrating time looking for band-mates over the summer months. Oh boy was he ever right. I've been working hard at finding people to play with but everyone's social schedules or vacation plans are causing havoc. It's bad enough trying to get 2 people in the same place at the same time, but organising 3 or 4 is a nightmare. So far, apart from a swift beer or two with a couple of potentials I've drawn a blank. I'm not giving up, but it's becoming clear that the search for bandmates is going to be a long, drawn out affair. Wish me luck and watch this space!


Axe Victim said...

Don't give up. It'll happen. Just don't try too hard. Oh, but then again in your case Ken... No, I'm just kidding! I think that what you need to do now that the silly season is upon us is to start writing songs. Don't ponce about either. Just get started. Put at least three of your own songs together and demo them so that once you are seting up your band/collective whatever, you will have a strong sense of direction rather than a 'what shall we play' mindset. But perhaps it's time to maybe step up a gear or two from here on in?

Further on up the road said...

I remember Placebo but they haven't crossed my path for a long time but I remember them as better than average.

I agree with Axe - I've really regretting having ditched my very old 4 track recorder a couple of years back as I'm starting to noodle with ideas at the moment but then can lose them too easily

Kenski said...

I think one of Placebo's strengths is that they're a real 'character' band, in that the lead singer, Brian Molko's vocal stylings are instantly recognisable.

I've actually been focussing so much on trying to get 'something' together, band-wise, that I've not really been feeling particularly musical. It didn't help that the pick-fairy had stolen all my decent picks. I now have a small hoarde of various Jim Dunlops, including the really flexible ones that Axe talked about before. No excuse now for not getting back on course with writing stuff, I guess. I'm actually in a really inspired mood right now, so the time could be right.