Placebo – Black Market Music

Artist: Placebo
Title: Black Market Music
Label: Virgin
Rating: 8.5/10

Placebo have truly outdone themselves. I’ll never look at them the same again. They’ve gone from a novelty act to one of the most precise groups in music today.

After the gender bender Brian Molko busted out with a goatee, you had a feeling this wasn’t going to be the same trip and “Taste In Men” is proof. It opens with a beat that kicks like the Chemicals’ “Block Rockin’ Beats”. “Slave To The Wage” is the most radio happy track, happy in a distorted sort of way. Singles aside, this album is a journey, not a momentary reaction.

“Days Before You Came” is one of the most energized and hurried of tracks that only causes you to retreat into “Special K”. Yes, it’s about drugs, but it’s more troubled and schizophrenic than just that. Offering their soul on “Passive Aggressive”, we know that behind the dark there is a confidence of something positive. “Commercial For Levi” is the most obvious while being the most deceptive. Sex is in the air, but the acts here are hidden in the recesses of our world. Stuck behind even the smuttiest reaches of the everyday mind, yet somewhere it is alive and well, killing our morals in every kind of sick and troubled way. The song is written for a friend who is said to be always “choking Trojan…/ drunk on immortality/ coke and ecstasy” with a simple plead, “please don’t die”. As dark as the message is, the music is completely the opposite, sparking child-like refrain.

Placebo doesn’t shy away from anything, and politics get their fair shake on “Spite & Malice”, although I honestly could have done without this song and its hip-hop bender. So from the weak I give you the strong. “Blue American” is my favorite track by far. It’s slow, it’s tortured, but it’s strong. It’s like looking in the mirror and finally seeing all the good you’ve always known about yourself but was never quite able, or ready, to accept.

“Hemoglobin” is a twist to “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday where they hang a black slave. Placebo takes the slaves perspective. It’s cruel, it’s scary, and it’s true. The depth brings the horror: “as they dragged me to my feet/ I was filled with incoherence/ theories of conspiracy/ the whole world wants my disappearance/ I’ll go fighting nail and teeth/ you’ve never seen such perseverance/ going to make you scared of me.”

Placebo has easily torn me up and left my skin to tighten in the past, but “Peeping Tom” is the first time they’ve sent shivers. The fear and uncertainty proves these guys are just like you and me. They don’t have all the answers; no, they don’t even trouble themselves with that nonsense anymore. Now that they’ve found their insides they wear their music much better. No more concerns about what we see, instead they’ve focused on what goes forth when they close their eyes at night. The weight of the world is no longer theirs. They’ve found it’s just as hard to carry your own weight around all day, so much so to provide enough material to write a great record. Black Market Music is their therapy and mine.

+ charlie craine

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