Oh, Placebo – one of the few bands from my awkward and angst-ridden teenage years that I still listen to on a regular basis.
If anything, their music has become even more relevant and meaningful to me as I aged – which is both a blessing and a curse, because on the one hand, this band continues to help me get through a lot of shit in my life, but on the other hand, a lot of the songs on this list have become backing tracks to me ugly-crying in darkened rooms under piles of blankets.
Placebo is currently made up of lead singer Brian Molko and guitarist Stefan Olsdal, along with latest drummer Steve Forrest. Word is, they have some big news coming out on May 20 of this year – a release date for their new album, perhaps? Fingers crossed! Until then, here’s a list of my personal top ten Placebo songs:
1. Every You Every Me
Sucker love is heaven sent.
You pucker up, our passion’s spent.
My hearts a tart, your body’s rent.
My body’s broken, yours is bent
Thanks to the movie Cruel Intentions, this is probably one of Placebo’s most well-known and popular songs. It’s popular for a reason, though; it’s just that good.
2. Without You I’m Nothing
I’m unclean, a libertine
And every time you vent your spleen,
I seem to lose the power of speech
You’re slipping slowly from my reach.
You grow me like an evergreen,
You’ve never seen the lonely me at all
The song in general is amazing, but I first really fell in love with it when I heard the above live duet version with David Bowie. The passion and emotion they all bring to that performance added another layer to an already dark and gripping piece of music. Any declaration of love that goes like “without you, I’m nothing” is one so overpowering that it’s probably not going to end well – and perhaps that’s the point. Love isn’t supposed to be about needing someone so desperately that you cease to exist without them; love isn’t supposed to be a power play.
3. Special K
No hesitation, no delay
You come on just like special K
Just like I swallowed half my stash
I never, ever want to crash
This song takes the oft-used metaphor of love being a drug, and through simple, honest lyrics and Brian’s chilling vocals, somehow makes that metaphor feel new and different. Also, the music video is an experience in and of itself – I don’t even know where to start in describing what happens in it, so you should really watch it for yourself.
4. Sleeping With Ghosts
The sea’s evaporating, though it comes as no surprise
These clouds we’re seeing
They’re explosions in the sky
It seems it’s written, but we can’t read between the line
I’ve never been a believer in the idea of “soulmates” (my friends call me jaded, but I prefer the term realistic.) However, I can admit that the idea sounds pretty nice, which is probably why it appeals to so many people. This particular song of Placebo’s deals with the concept of soulmates – of the whole “we’re meant to be no matter what, even if the world should end, even if everyone tries to keep us apart, because soulmates never die” kinda thing. See, when it’s put like that, even a disenchanted, pessimistic girl like me can find it romantic.
5. Special Needs
Remember me when you’re the one who’s silver screen
Remember me when you’re the one you always dreamed
Remember me when everyone’s noses start to bleed
Remember me, special needs
Here’s another one with a music video that defies description. The song itself sounds pretty chill and dreamy, and the simplicity of the lyrics surprisingly enough doesn’t help with interpreting it. I guess it’s one of those “it means whatever you think it means” kinds of songs.
6. Twenty Years
And them’s the breaks for we designer fakes
We need to concentrate on more then meets the eye
And them’s the breaks for we designer fakes
But it’s you I take ’cause you’re the truth not I
You’re the truth, not I
Oh, man, I love the guitar and beat to this so, so much.
7. Teenage Angst
Shine the headlight, straight into my eyes.
Like the roadkill, I’m paralysed.
You see through my disguise
At the drive-in, double feature
Pull the lever, break the fever and say your last goodbyes.
Since I was born I started to decay
Now nothing ever, ever goes my way
Because I’m a sucker for anything acoustic, the above version of this song is what won me over to the original, which is significantly more upbeat. I’ve since grown to appreciate both versions of this song, which (as the title suggests) is pretty much about all the drama, emotions, and confusion you experience as a teenager trying to find your place in the world.
8. Because I Want You
Fall into you is all I seem to do
When I hit the bottle ’cause I’m afraid to be alone
Tear us in two is all it seems to do
As the anger fades, this house is no longer a home
Don’t give up on the dream, don’t give up on the wanting
I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this song that makes me love it so much other than the fact that the lyrics and message really resonate with me. As always, there are several different interpretations of this song, but what isn’t all that disputed amongst Placebo fans is that this is a great song, and Brian’s vocals on it are killer.
9. Song to Say Goodbye
You are one of God’s mistakes, you crying, tragic waste of skin
I’m well aware of how it aches, and you still won’t let me in
Now I’m breaking down your door to try and save your swollen face
Though I don’t like you anymore, you lying, trying waste of space
The above extended music video is basically a short film, and one that is highly thought-provoking and emotional. The fact that it’s more or less set to what I consider one of the best of Placebo’s songs makes it all that much better. The lyrics in this one are hard-hitting, as is the amazing backing instruments that accentuate Brian’s voice.
I was never faithful, and I was never one to trust
Borderline bipolar forever biting on your nuts
I was never grateful, that’s why I spend my days alone
I’m forever black-eyed, a product of a broken home
The cheery beat beneath this song belies the dark lyrics about loneliness, depression, and fucked-up family dynamics. It’s the kind of song that connects with its audience even if they don’t personally identify with any of the subject matter; the music is just so real and honest.