“Don’t worry, Baby, it’s just the end of the world…” So sings Brian Molko on Unisex, and if this is Armageddon, call me born-again, cause it doesn’t get any more divine than this.
Three years after the raw and blistered thrill that was Meds, Placebo are back with Battle for the Sun, a collection of songs that blend the classic Placebo sound with a new, almost symphonic sound that resonates through the album.
Placebo are a strange piece of candy. At the first taste, your lips pucker and your eyebrows go up and you think, huh. what the hell is this? You can’t help but try another bite, and before you know it you’re casing the convenience store, waiting on deliveries so you can buy up the entire stock and devour each bite slowly, an addict, and you can’t help but notice the irony, can you? Battle for the Sun is a prime example of why Placebo are so hard to turn off and to get out of your head. The album opens with the hard-hitting love song Kitty Litter and doesn’t slow down at all through the next few tracks. Battle for the Sun begins almost like a slow-motion playground chant, builds intensity through the next verse, and slides into a chorus that would make Jeff Buckley proud. (Nope, not gonna tell you. Get the album.)
I don’t think anyone would ever accuse Placebo of being upbeat, but Battle for the Sun has a decidedly more positive feel than its predecessor. Don’t worry, they’re still as tortured as ever, but they seem more accepting of who they are and where they’ve been. Bright Lights is as hopeful as the trio has gotten thus far, playing like an anthem for those who have been through hell and are determined to make their way back while keeping their damaged souls intact, not patching them up with religion and rhetoric. “No one can take it away from me, and no one can tear it apart; because a heart that hurts is a heart that works…” this is joy, Placebo-style.
And then we have Julien. By far one of the best tracks on the album, Julien begins with a whisper, Brian Molko’s hushed and vicious warning, and explodes into a cautionary tale of excess and destruction. It wouldn’t be a Placebo album without this track, they must have known it and man, they hit this one dead-on.
Breathe Underwater finds Molko stripped bare again, much as he was in Black-eyed, from 2000’s Black Market Music. His willingness to shed his skin and lay out his insecurities for the world to see is one of the things that make Placebo so addictive, and this song is a perfect example of that. It calls to mind their earlier albums, something die-hard fans will appreciate.
The bonus tracks, Unisex and The Movie on Your Eyelids, in themselves make Battle for the Sun worth owning. Unisex rides a wave of poppy bliss over shades of melancholia while Molko promises that no matter what, things will be okay-even if it is the end of the world. The Movie on Your Eyelids takes us in the complete opposite direction; it is a love letter to someone lost but right before you, sleeping, dreaming of another. Slow, delicate, almost frightening in its stark openness, this is a movie you’ll want to play over and over again. Brian Molko is adept at dragging listeners into his mind and heart, and never has it been done better than it is on this track. “Be me,” he begs at the end, again and again… This is Placebo at their desperate and poetic best.
It’s been thirteen years since Placebo’s first, self-titled album was released, and this, their sixth studio album, proves that they are hardly over. Battle for the Sun manages to bring that unique Placebo sound back into the light without sounding redundant, and adds new elements to their sound without destroying the fundamental heart of the band and their music. All we can do now is play it till it wears out, buy another copy, and hope like hell that they’re already working on the next album.