After almost five years, the vile, nasty, spunk-filled world of Placebo has refused to go away. Marilyn Manson has turned a satirical eye on his own media status and even Suede have since come to swoon over girls "shaped like a cigarette." Yet it's Brian Molko that's steered his band from premature randiness (Placebo) to fearful regrouping (Without You I'm Nothing) without once batting a makeup-smeared eyelash. Black Market Music finds Molko in such moody lust that his strangled, androgynous wailing rivals anything the band has previously flashed to the world. Whether it's the dripping, slithery punk circle of songs like "Black Eyed" or the choir-boy enthusiasm of others like "Special K" (strangely echoing Midnight Oil's "Warakurna"), Placebo seem to have finally found that sweet wet spot between beauty and perversion. Even at its worst (the "Block Rockin' Beats"-sampling "Taste in Men"), past glories sometimes fail to be repeated with at least grand, postcoital contentment. Because it's hard to hate an album with such fascinating softer touches. In one moment, Molko cries respect to his mother; in another he counsels, "You better keep it in check/Or you'll end up a wreck/And you'll never wake up" -- a paternal warning seemingly directed at his fellow hedonists. Of course, there's a thin line between trying to perfect old efforts and stumbling into laughable self-parody. But Placebo now seem more in control than they ever have before. The spectacular "Commercial for Levi," for example, is some perverted, weary take on a childhood lullaby, only one written in a parallel dimension about "spunk and bestiality." True, there's no "Nancy Boy" or "Pure Morning," yet the album's consistency easily outmatches even the highest watermarks of either predecessor. This is a dank, lusty moment in the band's career that is about as good as Placebo "mark 1" can go. They now have the talent, the intelligence, and the distorted arousal to possibly become unstoppable. It's only a matter of time before they finally find love amid the lust.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dean Carlson