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Black Market Music

Placebo was first recommended to me via Matt when the band's second album, Without You I'm Nothing, was first out in '98. I didn't care for the album's first single (and sole US hit), "Pure Morning," but he said I would really dig some of the faster, punkier album tracks like "You Don't Care About Us." As it turned out, my roommate at the time had Without You I'm Nothing and I gave it a listen. Matt was very right and I bought my roommate's copy because he only liked "Pure Morning." I couldn't really call myself a big fan of Placebo, but I really dug most of the tracks on Without You I'm Nothing. This claim was very much the case when the band's follow-up, Black Market Music, came out. The songs didn't perk my interests, so I moved on.

Now that I live with a housemate who really likes Placebo and happens to have a DVD of all their videos, I decided to give Placebo some more attention by watching most of the DVD yesterday. Upon viewing and hearing songs from their entire career, I can now claim to be a fan of Placebo. The interesting thing is, I'm really at a loss for words for how to describe their music. It got me thinking about Manic Street Preachers, Therapy? and Skunk Anansie, aka, bands from across the pond with a very-difficult-to-describe sound. All I can say is this: you wouldn't be able to find bands like these in America.

While I would not lump Manics, Therapy?, Skunk Anansie and Placebo all together in the same musical boat, I will say they don't rock like traditional, categorized American hard rock or American alternative rock. Manics have churned out poppy rock songs with a variety of rock stylings (punk, hard rock, grunge and so on), Therapy? has mixed dark humor with poppy punky and riffin' rock, Skunk Anansie mixed industrial and hard rock with ballads and AC rock with a wildly versatile singer and Placebo has jumbled up a lot of stuff in a tuneful way since '96. In other words, this ain't your typical grunge-inspired, quiet-to-distorted-loud rock that you heard all throughout the '90s. This was a mark of a different kind of beast.

With the exception of some good airplay with "Pure Morning," Placebo is the only band of this grouping that can claim to have had some decent media attention in the US. Placebo still has a sizable audience here, but abroad they are one of the biggest mainstream bands. I don't know how marginalized rock music is in the UK, England and Europe, but coming from an American's point of view, this stuff defies simple pigeonholing. Granted, I'm coming from a perspective where these bands are special imports in a sea of bad groups. I'm sure our friends across the pond will say the same about select American bands.

I now understand that on any continent, the good stuff is out there, you just have to wade through so much mud, garbage and crap to find it.


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