Without You I’m Nothing, by Placebo (Virgin, 1998)
Placebo hit the world with their self-titled debut. Their sound, lyrics and imagery fucked up the audience’s mind, giving them a mixture of 70’s glam, grunge inspired guitars and the typical affectedness present in blues tunes. Two years later, they were back with a record yet to be bested by themselves: Without You I’m Nothing. It firstly greets the listener with Pure Morning’s addictive riff, processed drums and Molko’s well known gender-bending voice. It’s almost a dance floor track. Lyrics are a sort of girls’ ode, praising their uniqueness, as confidents or simply friends. Brick Shithouse contains insane guitar work, through a highly distorted vocal line. Sonically, it sounds very similar to You Don’t Care About Us, the latter a little bit softer. “This is the generation/Meant to masturbation” declares Molko, keeping sex as his core subject. Ask for Answers is a slow number, with enough room for reflections, like the chorus: “Get through this night/There are no second chances/This time I might/To ask the sea for answers” and “Dog boy, media whore/It’s who the hell you take me for?”. Osdal’s bass at the end section is a killer, proving bassists do not have to stand under guitarists’ shadows. The title song sounds extremely heartfelt, with romantic, dark, jagged-piercing lyrics. The whole band shows synchronicity and competency, but Molko’s acid guitar and honest vocal performance makes this one the album’s anthem. Things go rockier with Allergic (To Thoughts of Mother Earth), about not giving up the fighting; and it shall raise your adrenaline up with its explosive outro. The Crawl and My Sweet Prince are both self indulgent; where hopelessness is explored till exhaustion, with ‘Prince’ dealing about a platonic, obsessive yet gentle love between boys. But don’t worry: it’s absolutely not gross or rude. Every You Every Me is their most well-known song (it was included in Cruel Intentions soundtrack) from this record – and perhaps, from their entire career - and of course, a fan favorite thanks to its pop hook and sticky lyrics. Sexual orientation hits the spotlight once again on Scared of Girls, where the vocalist numbers the reasons why he was literally afraid of hanging out with females (Although Mr. Molko came to marry years later, and is now a boy’s father). Born at the end of the decade, WYIN carries its musical history. The melancholy present in romantic ballads, grunge laziness, unsatisfying themes and aggressive guitars, and most notably: its nostalgic feel. For those who did not live it (or were just too young to remember it), these were the elements that marked those years. While listening to this record, it’s hard not to think about it (and perhaps missing it). Not that Placebo intended, anyway. Here they delivered the complete compendium of nostalgia, irremediable loneliness, sourest feelings and frailty any rock band could ever decently offer.
1. Without You I’m Nothing
2. Pure Morning
3. Allergic (To Thoughts of Mother Earth)
Ultra, by Depeche Mode (Mute/Reprise, 1997)
Depeche Mode’s ninth studio album almost couldn’t see the daylight. Written solely by centerpiece member Martin L. Gore during their most turbulent moment to date, Ultra catches all grievances, anguish and negativity they’ve been through since Devotional Tour. Main arranger Alan Wilder had left due to ‘creative differences’; while singer/frontman Dave Gahan suffered continuously with his drugs issues, facing suicide attempts and outnumbered overdoses. Martin also had bad times, fighting his addiction to alcohol, and Fletcher, well, he was misplaced as usual. Recording process was painful and problematic, since Dave couldn’t even sing an entire session, forcing Gore to exercise his patience recording much of the verses separated and then pasting them together. Gore himself declared he no longer knew if another Depeche album would be possibly released, but for our luck, they survived their personal troubles and Ultra emerged out of chaos. Barrel of a Gun sounds crispy, a maelstrom of distress and brittleness expressing what the band have been faced, like verses “This twisted tortured mess/This bed of sinfulness/Who’s looking for some rest and feeling numb?”. Romanticism enfolded by biblical references was always a subject in Martin’s songwriting, and we can taste it once more in The Love Thieves, a ballad about the dichotomy found in love, its uplifting and breakdowns. Home captures the very moment we all seek for solace, feeling a foreigner in our own body, longing for calmness that just doesn’t seem to come soon. Unmistakably the album’s brightest pearl, we can feel a bit of hesitation in Martin’s voice, like if he was exorcising his demons away, backed by amazing string orchestration and the finest guitar solo played in any DM record. Synthpop anthem It’s No Good undoubtedly was written to seduce somebody, with its sexy lyrics, dance beats, and Gahan vocal performance too. He seductively sings in a soothing voice “When will you realize?/Do we have to wait till our worlds collide?/Open up your eyes/You can’t turn back the tide”. Useless gets back sharp-tasting sensations, but stronger than before. Tough lyrics “Feeling tired and bruised/With the bitterest taste” are sung with such property – allied with heavy warped beats and sparse atmosphere – that it’ll give you creeps. Nightmare soundtrack Sister of Night comprises abstract lyrics over industrial drumming and hell of loops and synths. Martin lends his voice to The Bottom Line, a nihilistic, bucolic song that explores trivial and natural events to metaphor love’s dying, fading nature. “Like a pawn on the eternal board/Who’s never quite sure what he’s moved towards/I walk blindly on/Then heaven is in front of me/Your heaven beckons me enticingly/When I arrive it’s gone” he mourns to a subtle rhythmic guitar and delicate keys. Even if Ultra could not be up to masterpiece predecessor Songs of Faith and Devotion, it is absolutely not disappointing, plus considering the labor it took to be born. This album is such an edgy psychic travel through our overwrought thoughts and tenser feelings, making us wonder we’re constantly at the brink of a brain cataclysm. But this is what music should always do: entertain while moving us to make a change – even a little one – deep inside us.
2. The Bottom Line
3. It’s No Good
21, by Adele (XL/Columbia, 2011)
Ok, so if you don’t know who’s this chick yet I guess you could only be in comatose state or sort of kind. She’s got the best selling album of the year and her voice’s been heard all over the world. Adele’s second record lies under Rick Rubin’s producing, known for maintaining artists’ musical identity, keeping them loyal to their roots and sound (Shakira’s Orals and SOAD’s Mesmerize & Hypnotize are fair examples). Starting on with Rolling in the Deep, a fiery face off where the singer states her dissatisfaction over her boyfriend. Its acoustic intro is only broken by Adele’s explosive crashing voice: “The scars of your love remind me of us/They keep me thinking that we almost had it all” she throws off, right before the catchy chorus kick in. Discontentment permeates the whole album, with Adele discussing about how displeasured she felt when left behind. Rumor Has It, produced by hit maker Ryan Tedder (Apologize, Bleeding Love, Already Gone) rips off Fiona Apple’s Fast As You Can, and offers the most upbeat song on 21. Tedder also co-wrote Turning Tables, a piano & strings ballad that will bring out tears, trust it. Adele steps into R&B territory on He Won’t Go, an amusing cut with funky bass and fine production. The singer even risks a little bit more with a worthy cover of Cure’s most worshipped song ever: Lovesong. But Cure fans, do not fear! She’s up to the challenge and delivers at least decent chill-out redemption. Despite sounding too underproduced and sometimes as a collection of b-sides, 21 deserves its success, because it is rooted upon Adele’s overwhelming magnificent vocals, the best thing here. Tracks like One and Only are enough compelling to make you forget about her lack of songwriting skills and the aforementioned plenty of stripped down stuff. Here she matches perfectly her voice, instrumentation, production and lyrics. She ought to have written a dozen more songs like that one. And there is, of course, final track Someone Like You; already an anthem of broken relationships, and that’s exactly what we seek in here, right?
1. Rolling in the Deep
2. Turning Tables
3. One And Only
More to come...
More to come...