All-time favourites /// Placebo ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ [Album] 1998


Extreme opinions are not uncommon when it comes to certain bands. Ask Placebo, they know. However, for the trio having this love or hate attitude is much better than indifference. And how can anyone be absolutely indifferent when we talk Placebo?

When Placebo emerged with their 1996 self-titled debut, they couldn’t but grab public’s attention by the balls. The interest to intricate melodies with out-of-the-ordinary vocal performance from Brian Molko was heated up by androgynous images and what seemed to be a challenge to the whole world from London-based three-piece. Placebo were totally different from other bands who were making noise on the scene at that time and this riot was in everything: sophisticated, unconventional melodies, direct, sometimes outrageous lyrics, the images androgynous to the point when a lot of listeners mistook Brian Molko for a girl and fiery desire to be the way they are.

Placebo’s sophomore album ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ (released in the UK on 12th October 1998) became a great follow-up to the mammothly successful debut.  As compared to ‘Placebo’, a more thought-out and mature ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ brought out a new side to the band. Stepping into the field of melancholy and slower tunes from explosive punkish vibes, Placebo showed they could play it mellow.

‘Without You I’m Nothing’ is a very personal album. Brian Molko explores the topics of romance, friendship, social issues, drugs and tragic events from his bittersweet point of view. Being open in his songs became a very important thing for Brian as he could touch upon the subjects he couldn’t discuss so openly in real life.

Inspired by the singer’s desire to improve, lower pitch of vocals was perfect for the musical and lyrical shift of moods on the album. Unique, hard-to-pin-down melodies became Placebo’s trademark already at that time. On ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ the band continued polishing the sophistication of their music to the point of perfect complexity. This kind of songwriting is a special signature of Placebo. They developed a natural hatred for guitar solos, considering them fillers for the songs with bad melodies written by uninventive performers. In fact, Placebo trod so far away from the beaten track that those fans who tried to transcribe their songs, failed miserably and got most of them wrong. Instead of packing their tunes with solos, Placebo went for artful song structures with the usage of non-ordinary things like toy instruments or baritone guitars. Thus, there is not a single filler moment on ‘Without You I’m Nothing’, but only a great palette of sounds splashing all the colourful melodies right from the stereo.

It’s no wonder Placebo had managed to polish this kind of songwriting greatly by the time ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ was recorded. When Steve Hewitt replaced Robert Schultzberg on drums, the band went from being three separate people playing music to a single unit with chemistry between them. Apart from that, Placebo didn’t want to learn only several basic chords and get away with playing them in different succession. They took time and care to study their instruments better to be able to get out the best out of them and to create the most delicious musical treat.

Looking back at ‘Without You I’m Nothing’, 15 years in, the album was a major brick in building Placebo and turning them into the alternative legends they are now. ‘Without You I’m Nothing’ is full of extremes. It can be loud or quiet, slow or fast.  Its depth can’t be questioned as it’s the album that takes a new look on making music that later was destined to turn Placebo into one of the best alternative rock bands in the world. Moreover, the sophomore has confidence which wasn’t there in the debut. Knowing what they want from music and believing they can do it set Placebo free in experimenting and exploring their music palette, be more bold in their music and push the boundaries. The record might not have been something particularly groundshaking for them yet, but the beginning was made in style.

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