09 June 2009

Placebo: “Battle for the Sun”

That time has come once again: Placebo has released their newest album and it has taken me five listens in order to determine what I was going to write. Placebo is the type of band that you can’t possibly place into a category; are they a Bowie imitation? Another post-punk band or are they grunge? I could never possibly categorize them and their individuality and with a drummer down and a record label switch this year, they have quickly recovered and released their sixth album, “Battle for the Sun” (released 8 June 2009 and 9 June 2009 internationally).

Though still to live the longevity of Depeche Mode, Placebo are veterans, and it is the same case scenario with the album’s release compared to Depeche Mode’s “Sounds of the Universe”: you expect more from them just because you know their potential, but it is a great album nonetheless. Unlike other fans, I do not think the loss of Steve Hewitt had much effect on the sound; rather, the actual maturing of the band had a lot to do with the change of sound. It is edgier, more upbeat compared to their prior effort “Meds,” and the theme of the album is completely different. The approach seems to be similar to that of the older albums like “Black Market Music” and “Without You I’m Nothing,” with an edgy sort of spin to it. There is a lot more emphasis on instruments as they have added keyboard sounds into the mix, it was not my cup of tea, but then again, I was completely taken off guard.

Catchy with a bit more variation in instrument and rhythm, “Battle for the Sun” is as fresh as any other album and the team of Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal still produces profound lyrics like always. The album compared to “Meds” is better in terms of sound since the variation from song to song changes more so based on the lyrical themes. The first track amusingly called “Kitty Litter” is once again a perfect demonstration of the band’s ability to write; the song starts with “Love of mine … This fortress in our hearts feels much weaker now we're apart” and ends with “I need a change of skin I need a change.” Then later on in the album “Julien” (the ninth track) is an amazing song that captures the thesis, if I may, of the album. “You can run but you can't hide because no one here gets out alive … find a friend in whom you can confide Julien, you're a slow motion suicide.” The name “Julien” is a common male name in certain areas and these lines could possibly be directed to all people, not just a specific “Julien.” The band has stated that the album was about the process of attempting to escape hardships, “the darkness,” and eventually embracing the “darkness,” as there is no other option left.

The group has definitely changed on certain levels, but that is part of life. The “Placebo” effect is an odd one, as I have mentioned before, their albums may not hit the soul directly at first, but eventually, it will get to you and the album will be played on repeat. Though I miss my “Nancy Boy,” I am glad to see the evolution and maturing of Placebo, and even though it is a different goal they may be aiming for, they have not lost their luster.

Track Listing
1. Kitty Litter
2. Ashtray Heart
3. Battle for the Sun
4. For What It’s Worth
5. Devil in the Details
6. Bright Lights
7. Speak in Tongues
8. The Never-Ending Why
9. Julien
10, Happy You’re Gone
11. Breathe Underwater
12. Come Undone
13. Kings of Medicine

Keep up with Placebo at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here are their videos for “Battle for the Sun” and “For What It’s Worth” from their YouTube Channel: Placebodiary.

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