Placebo joins us this fall at the soon to reopen Masonic. The band formed in 1994 under the name Ashtray Heart when vocalist and guitarist Brian Molko and bass guitarist Stefan Olsdal met at a train station in England. Molko invited Olsdal to watch his solo act at a local pub, and after shuffling drummers a couple times due to band tension, that role is now currently filled by Steve Forrest.
Their debut self-titled album was released in 1996 and is most known for the track Nancy Boy. Perhaps their most popular track here in the US, Pure Morning, came off their second album Without You I’m Nothing, which was released in 1998 via Virgin Records. Another track, Every You, Ever Me, reached #11 on the UK singles chart, and instantly conjures up memories of the late 90’s alternative scene.
The 2000 album that followed, Black Market Music, was a bit more experimental, featuring funky rhythms and hip hop elements along with their usual punk guitar riffs and alternative grungy sound. Perhaps the most notable track off this album, Special K, created an uproar due to its reference to the drug Ketamine, yet was an extremely poppy, catchy ear worm. Their next albums Sleeping with Ghosts, Meds, and Battle for the Sun (which peaked at #8 on Billboard’s list of Top Independent Albums) returned to their recognizable rock roots, and just last year, they released their seventh album, Loud Like Love. Each of their albums has landed in the the UK Top 20.
Placebo has been signed to a number of labels, including EMI, Virgin, Universal, High Note, and Astralwerks, and has toured with David Bowie, Stabbing Westward, and Elbow. The band has furthermore covered Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, and of course, David Bowie. Listening to their song lyrics and watching pretty much any of their music videos, you’ll notice a strong androgyny theme, which is partially why they are often categorized as ‘glam rock’, well after the peak of most glam rock bands (think David Bowie, Iggy Pop, etc). They even had a cameo in Velvet Goldmine, for which they also recorded a cover of 20th Century Boy.
It’s hard to believe that Placebo has been around for twenty years- come check them out and the legacy they’ve created.