Dark, romantic, depressed, seductive: these are a few words that describe the newest offering from British mainstays Placebo. Meds is journey in song from the painful morning after to addiction’s lonely grasp. Everybody has had a night like this, yet I haven’t heard this level of pure, unadulterated passion in a new record in quite a while. This album drips with it, from the first chords of “Meds” to the fading out of “A Song to Say Goodbye.” Brian Molko’s voice is tinged with an extremely heavy sadness, yet as listeners, we benefit from this grief, as it gives us some of the best work Placebo has done in years.
Placebo strips their sound down, back to the basics, leaving behind the studio trickery that was rampant on Black Market Music. It harkens back to their earlier works with an emphasis on the vocal/guitar relationship. Although there is still a presence of studio effects, they are used lightly, supporting the band without overpowering them, one of the best examples being “Space Monkey.” The piano work within Meds operates quite like the studio effects, never overpowering but often helps elevate the mood of the song into an phantasmal setting, such as in “Pierrot The Clown.”
A particularly noteworthy highlight on Meds is the duet with R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe on “Broken Promise.” A tale of a lover scorned is made dirty and dangerous with the parallel singing during the chorus. They trade off on verses, shifting the perspective between the lovers, until they come crashing together in the refrain. The piano is highlighted once again, especially here, representing the quiet emotions of the lovers until bursting through surface during the chorus with a mad explosion of guitar.
Lyrically, I was not disappointed with Meds. Surprisingly I related to them much more than I initially suspected. The gravity of the first three songs does not beguile from the instrumentation at all. Moreover, they set the stage for what exactly we’re getting here: self-destruction. It’s a dark sort of love, the kind that will break the object of your desire and yourself at the same time. The two distinct themes, which run through the thirteen songs that make up Meds, are romantic heartbreak and addiction to either chemicals or humanly sorts. The title track touches upon both themes, discussing the plight of two mentally unstable lovers, each not having taken their medication. Having experienced a lover who often slipped up like that, it’s hard not to let that touch a raw nerve. “Baby did you forget to take your meds?” First single “Infra-Red” showcases the destructive turn lust can go: “Forget your running. I will find you. I will find you.”
As addiction colors most of the album, I find that my two favorite songs delve deeply into that realm. “Space Monkey” deals with this subject from the addict’s point of view, explaining his disease is like a monkey that is sewn to his back. Furthermore, our narrator espouses the nasty effects of his monkey-paranoia, heat flashes, and the eventual confession “I die inside her.”
The other favorite, “A Song to Say Goodbye,” also happens to be the album closer, fittingly enough. Heartbreakingly bittersweet, the song deals with a friend reaching out to save an addict one last time. It paints addiction in a relatively clear light, without the prejudices usually associated with it.
“Now I’m breaking down your door
To try and save your swollen face
Though I don’t like you anymore”
Having had friends wrestle with the terrors of addiction, the album once again resonates on a personal level. Sadly, both the song and the album end by saying goodbye. Goodbye to fuck-up friends, goodbye to drugs, to anonymous, emotionless sex, to everything that’s ugly. But at a price we don’t talk about.
Joy Division – Closer
The Cure – Disintegration
David Bowie – Scary Monsters