Placebo - Sleeping With Ghosts
Reviewed by Andreas on 27th April 2003
Another year, another batch of cds, vinyls and even mini-discs end up in my shopping bags as the months drag on. During the same course of a year, there are usually quite a lot of releases I look forward to. Pitchshifter's "PSI" (R.I.P) for instance. Or the Zwan album. This review doesn't concern either of those two, but rather one of the albums I've been looking forward to since... when was it? 2001? Yes, Placebo are back with a new one, it's called "Sleeping with ghosts" (if you don't already know this, you must be blind) and it's mighty better than "Black Market Music".
Right, let's get down to business, the album. One thing I've always liked about Placebo's albums and singles in general is the cover art. From the picture of the boy making faces on the self-titled debut to the girls gracing the cover of "Without You I'm Nothing" the pictures have always set themselves slightly apart from the rest of the albums you buy. "Sleeping with ghosts" is no exception, it features (yes, you guessed it) someone hugging a "ghost" (that is, the picture of a half naked woman, opacity reduced to about 50% in Photoshop). The whole ambiance reflects the album quite well, it's very Placebo, so are the songs, mind. From the instrumental opening "Bulletproof Cupid" with it's angular riff and barrages of distortion, to the gothic synth-hook'ed single "The Bitter End" to the closing piano ballad "Centrefolds". The songwriting has clearly evolved since the last "effort" (Ahem).
The album seems to be more honest, more personal, more straight from the heart. Think "36 Degrees" and "Nancy Boy"... only with deeper insight, less drugs and an equal amount of make-up! While the debut made you think of young people lying in a pool of blood and vodka, glamour struck, "Sleeping with ghosts" makes you think of reflective, feminine men reading their journals about the events introduced on the debut and "WYIN".
All in all, this album sees a return of "the fast stuff", Placebo obviously realized that trying to merge their two first into one didn't work too well (Black Market Music). An altogether darker, prettier album than the previous efforts I'd say. Tracks like "Plasticine" and "Second sight" are fast, melodic, dark and gorgeous. Lyrically it's pretty much still the good ol' Brian Molko. The rhymes, structure, and the themes. Although there's more bitter breakups, one night stands, and memories of mad girls who've disappeared than songs about drugs, dirty sex and spunk. Well, I'm sure there's some spunk in there somewhere.
As for the weak side of the album, there are a few songs that didn't particularly strike my fancy, "Protect me from what I want" being the best example of this. I think it's a bit annoying and not really all that a good effort. Placebo has b-sides that are more memorable, at least at first glance. It's nice that they've used electronics on this album, it really makes a difference. But, at times it's too much, there is a point where the limit is reached I think. Still, that's the sole critique I can think of.
Mr. Molko, you have pleased me again.
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