90s score: 9/10
2016 score: 8/10
Any hardcore music fan probably remembers the first record that made an impact on them. The first record that made you realize how amazing music could actually be, and turned you into the rabid, obsessed music fan you are today. I’ve been a lover of music for my entire life; growing up with parents and family that regularly listened to bands like U2 and The Beatles will do that to you. Despite that, it wasn’t until I discovered a little band out of London, England called Placebo, that my ‘musical-world’ completely changed.
I know, it’s strange album to attribute my ‘musical-awakening’ to, right? But, that’s precisely it. The key word there is “strange.” The first time I listened to Without You, I’m Nothing, I couldn’t believe all the strangeness surrounding it. Everything from the weird sounding guitars to the nasally vocals of Brian Molko was just strange. At that point, I never heard anything even remotely close to the sound that Placebo made, and on top of that, Lead Singer Brian Molko wore dresses and eyeliner on stage and was openly bisexual, giving off the most, “I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about me” vibe I had ever seen in my life. I was instantly hooked.
“Pure Morning,” the album opener, was the hit that essentially made Placebo attract some well-deserved attention. It saw constant rotation on various music channels all across Europe and North America, and it’s easy to see why. Simply put, the song is catchy. It opens with the line, “A friend in need is a friend indeed, a friend with weed is better,” which is a shocking start to an album. “Pure Morning” immediately sets the mood for an entire record of songs all focused on the central theme of romance and failed relationships.
The title track of the album, “Without You, I’m Nothing,” seems like it would obviously be about some sort of failed relationship. But, what makes Placebo special is that the songs are all open to interpretation. The “You” in “Without You, I’m Nothing,” is never really made clear. Is it about a literal person? Or, could the “You” be referring to something a little more nefarious, like drugs, which Molko has admitted to using in the past? Either way, the song is a beautiful, strange ballad, with no discernible verses or choruses. It is made up of different unique musical sections. Placebo would go on to re-record this song on their next album, Black Market Music, with guest vocals from Mr. David Bowie himself.
“Every You, Every Me” is definitely the most upbeat track on here. With this song, the beauty is in the simplicity. The main chords are repeated throughout the entire length of the track but, rather than sound repetitive, it’s the relentlessness of Molko’s voice sung over those chords that make you want to play this one at full volume.
I could go on endlessly, speaking individually about why I love every single track on here, but I’ll sum it up like this: Placebo taught me that it was okay to be different, and to have different tastes in music. While everyone in my high school was boasting about the latest Green Day or the latest Blink 182, I was listening to Placebo. My idol was a guy that wore dresses and eyeliner instead of cargo shorts and baggy t-shirts. Was I made fun of for that? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter to me, because I had Brian to remind me that other people’s opinions were useless. And that’s exactly how I felt.
Written by Dominic Abate
*edited by Danielle Kenedy