Placebo, Placebo, 1996, Virgin Records
Hang on to Your IQ
Lady of the Flowers
Formed in London in 1994, this was Placebo’s self titled debut. Influenced by Sonic Youth, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees and New Order, its peak chart position was number 5.
Opener and lead single Come Home has a fast pop-punk kind of vibe. Teenage Angst, a song which has gone through myriad forms when subsequently played live by the band is, in its initial incarnation, a simple guitar focused track with a universal theme. 36 Degrees, a song made up of body metaphors because the title is around about body temperature (this is 37 degrees celsius, so a 36 degree person might be seen as literally being cold blooded) is where the album really kicks into gear, it’s punchy and rocky. Hang on to Your IQ is a gentle ballad about sexual dysfunction, so that’s lovely. Nancy Boy the band’s most successful single starts with thrashing guitars and becomes a sexy, gender non-conforming rock track with an incredibly catchy chorus. Acoustic I Know is a total change but it’s a really beautiful song. Bruise Pristine is straight back to fast, punky rock. Lady of the Flowers is the song that sounds most like later Placebo but it actually seems out of place here. The soft to loud to soft changes don’t seem to fit on an album that is mostly fast and furious. Bass-heavy Swallow feels like it was recorded in a drug fueled haze. It’s a woozy sort of end to the album.
Although their sound here seems kind of rough compared to their later stuff, it’s interesting to hear a punkyier Placebo. There is a heavy sex and drug focus in the lyrics which are definitely a bit immature even in comparison to their next album. Placebo and Nancy Boy in particular opened a lot of doors for the band though. David Bowie invited them to support him at a number of concerts at the end of 1996 and later collaborated with them on a duet version of Without You I’m Nothing. While a lot of the Britpop era bands seemed to hit their high point with their first album, Placebo took longer to evolve, but perhaps because of this, have managed to continue performing and creating interesting music.