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The Duke Listens To “Once More With Feeling – Singles 1996-2004″ By Placebo

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Disturbing events in the Life De Duke #3426765

What happened back in the day, the day being the one in which the event in question took place, was that The Duke was browsing through the weekly magazine concerning the rock, the guitars, the yelling and so on, a genre which was, at the time, predominately populated by young men with bad hair and snarly looks about the chops. Certainly if a young teenage fella should wish to explore things a tad in the bathroom, for example, he would need to be acquainted with more than the likes of Kerrang! magazine, although best to keep it to hand also, since afterwards you might wanna read something cool about NOFX before you felt like getting up again.

What happened was that The Duke chanced to discover a photograph in that very rock weekly, a photograph of a young vixen with ice-blue eyes and really, quite the most seductively filthy gaze. This woman is gorgeous, thought The Duke, oh how gorgeous she most certainly is.

The discovery that the temptress in question was not, in fact, a lady, but actually a short fella by the name of Brian, certainly made for some interesting conversation. Around these parts, motherfucker, we don’t find ourselves getting attracted to people called Brian unless we, ourselves, have names like Elizabeth or Susan. You better watch yourself, The Duke.

The reason all this nonsense has returned for to haunt The Duke, is that very recently a package arrived containing the compact CD entitled Once More With Feeling, being the collected singles of Placebo, the outfit fronted by the young fella in question, the one what looks like a very attractive lady, but no, is in fact a short fella called Brian Molko.

Placebo have had a rough time of late here in the United UK. Never one to administer accolade when a kick in the guts can be just as fulfilling, the likes of NME and such tend to shy away from these cretins. It wasn’t always so, of course.

Who could ignore that first burst of singles, all included here, the stuff from the debut like Nancy Boy or 36 Degrees or, best of all, Bruise Pristine? These gothic, Bowie-worshiping slabs of concise, chopping melody. For sure, all that guff about “Since I was born I started to decay” could only be loved by a 14 year old, possibly even one who has confused emotions towards the singer, but there’s no denying the power of it all, daft self-pitying twaddle aside.

Self-pitying is fine, man, if you maybe fling some wit or something in there too, like maybe Morrissey or the Cobain fella. Screw all this talk about “Like a roadkill, I’m paralysed.”

If the likes of Teenage Angst focussed on, well, teenage angst, then thank God that most of Placebo’s oeuvre deals with material a tad more arresting, i.e., the filthy sexings. The tracklisting on Singles plays out, fittingly enough, like a host of narratives concerning some bed-hopping bohemian beast borne of orgasm and cocaine.

“Eyeholes in a paper bag”, Molko muses in the blissful Nancy Boy, “Greatest lay I ever had.” “A friend in need’s a friend indeed”, asserts Pure Morning from the second record, “A friend who bleeds is better.”

Those first two albums make up the bulk of the record’s first half. Being a singles collection, we don’t get, say, the majestically melancholy Burger Queen from Without You I’m Nothing, with its lament for the tragic individual of the title. “Now it takes him all day, just to get an erection”, they cooed.

As if to make up for this, though, we get hit with the rather alarming realization that much of what follows this astounding run is, actually, pretty bloody good.

By the time the third album, Black Market Music had arrived, The Duke was off investigating whatever the hell it was I felt like investigating at the time. Possibly some alt.country, maybe Whiskeytown or Cannibal Corpse. All of this means that the tracks from Taste In Men to the final Twenty Years, the second of two new numbers, prove something of a pleasant surprise.

The formula pretty much remained intact throughout, and on occasion the downbeat / sarcastic vocals coupled with gothic / glam tomfoolery can get distastefully predictable. Best to remember though that this is, after all, a singles collection, and not a best of. Of course, the recent Marilyn Manson Best Of was actually a Singles Collection, and we all know how embarrassing that fucking thing was for those of us who believe the kooky sonna bitch actually makes astounding records. Often, singles are the least inventive portions of the record. That’s why they get on the radio.

So, then, after the duet with Bowie on Without You I’m Nothing, which surly types might judge to be a pointedly fitting title for the team-up, The Duke wandered off into pastures new. These pastures, whilst certainly still green for the most part, and fit for any amount of bovine to be chewing on without risk of gut-explosion, do, however, tend to look very similar to the ones we’ve just left. Whether this means that the farmer and his team of landscapers got fed up and just did the same thing again and again is open to discussion. Perhaps he just realised that the fields were pretty much perfect as they were. No point screwing things up with rivers or rockeries or such superfluous cack.

First single from Black Market Music, the pulsating Taste In Men is fairly outstanding, built around a pleasingly retro-glam bassline and clanging, tin-pot drums. Slave To The Wage, meanwhile, not only has a title that sounds like something late-period Manic Street Preachers would have concocted, but musically too, the influence of the sloganeering Welshmen can be detected. Molko loses points for some daft lyrics, though, along the lines of; “Sick and tired of Maggie’s farm / she’s a witch with broken arms.”

The Bitter End, taken from the most recent record, Sleeping With Ghosts, is pretty much a carbon copy of Nancy Boy, without the smirking schoolboy gender-bending filth. Much better is This Picture, which at least adds something (distorted talky bits) to the template which, by this point, was getting pretty stagnant. It’s also got a gorgeous melody too, with all the yacking about “Fear of growing old” and such.

The two obligatory new tracks are excellent, it’s gotta be said. I Do is incredibly infectious, loads of fuzz and ambient blips and such. “I wanna be a girl like you”, claims Molko, “the way you swing your hips in jeans”. The closing Twenty Years is a much more downbeat affair, or, as Molko puts it; “pure epic melancholy, a meditation on the passing of time and mortality. But it’s not miserable.”

Placebo are currently working on their fifth record, it turns out. What The Duke would suggest, since he himself has sold at least millions of records and is therefore qualified for to comment, is that the blueprint needs a bit of a touch-up. That air of repetition which occasionally threatens to undermine a lot of the rather fine stuff on the second half of Once More With Feeling needs to be addressed, is what.

Plenty of time for to worry about that, though. For now, as a career overview what does exactly as the title might suggest, there ain’t a whole hell of a lot wrong with this right here.

Thanks folks.

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando

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About The Duke

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    time check

  • Eric Olsen

    thyme Czech

    (great review, Duker, I actuallly didn’t know all that much about Placebo, though I have an album or two)