Few will argue that Placebo are among the great rock bands. They could however, be even better and have been let down in the past by albumsthat consistently fall narrowly short of the mark, principally due to a couple of average songs tainting the surrounding brilliance.
One might expect that with three years (almost to the day) since the last album proper (ignore the singles album Once More With Feeling) Placebo would have had the time to craft and finally deliver that perfect album.
Traditionally, Placebo’s albums kick-off with bollock-crunchingly gigantic openers. This can be seen right across the Placebodiscography, from 1996’s self-titled debut to 2003’s Sleeping With Ghosts with songs such as Pure Morning, Taste In Men, and Bulletproof Cupid. In comparison, Meds’ opening title-track is a little curtailed, but certainly doesn’t compromise on the energy front and is perfecttestament to Placebo’s uncanny knack of writing an instantly loveable track.
The opening onslaught continues through the eerily divine Infra-Red and the anthemic Drag. The pairing of the down-tempo Space Monkey andFollow The Cops Back Home however, is the first sign of trouble for Meds. They function as the more delicate antidote to the fury of what has come before.These dark songs are good, but sound bloated and leave the listener yearning for a faster tempo and a huge guitar. That demand is quenched with the excellent Post Blue, marking the beginning of another wave of the kind of guitar driven mayhem that has made Placebo’s name – this is where the trio are at their finest.
Brian love-him-or-hate-him Molko is sublime throughout, both vocally, and lyrically. He is blessed with one of the most distinctive and addictivevoices in rock and its return on Meds is most welcome. His lyrics are more cutting and darker than on preceding albums and are deliveredwith a chilling dramaticism.
And dramatic is exactly what this album is – not in an overblown catsuit wearing, falsetto fucking Darkness way – but dramatic in a way that makes it sound like some sort of apocalyptic soundtrack filled with soaring frenetic highs and deep engaging lows, united by an air of terror to every song. The sincerity of it all is addictive and utterly captivating, and, if I’m honest, slightly scary.
Darker than its predecessors the harrowing Meds is as close Placebo have come to that perfect album. That’s not to say there aren’t better songson earlier records, but for the first time Placebo have released an album that sounds like a whole piece of work rather than simply a collection ofsongs – a flaw Placebo have fallen to in the past. This is their best yet. Essential.