Number 3. The mysterious, precise, evenly shaped; number 3. Yet, strangely, it's been the downfall of many a band - Cast, Oasis, Counting Crows, Mansun and many others have shed blood by the time they reached album number 3. But will the same fate befall cock-in-frock melodirockers Placebo?
Comprised of 12 tracks (and the now obligatory "hidden track"), Black Market Music is the latest offering from the multiple nationality disorder band who previously brought us such spiky pop hits as 'Nancy Boy', 'Teenage Angst' and 'Every You, Every Me'. Marking front man Brian Molko's rise to new levels of chic and lyrical competence, you'll be forgiven for waiting with baited breath as it is, without mincing words: amazing.
Mixing the rough of their self-titled debut, the smooth of Without You I'm Nothing and some additional electronic hundreds and thousands (with tonnes more melancholy) seems to have come easily to the guys. Opening track and first single 'Taste In Men' sets a pace that crawls down to a comedown slither with a migraine of throbbing bass, a pumping drum loop and weird electro twiddles.
This is followed by what should become a pogo-friendly live favourite, 'Days Before You Came' - which has the punch of earlier material... albeit with less nasal vocals. There is 'Special K' - an extremely thinly masked reference to Ketamine. Special K is extremely melodic with "ba da duh dum ba dadda da" 's after every line. This is 'Every You, Every Me' with a touch of Smashing Pumpkins grandieur.
One of the biggest surprises of the album is probably 'Spite & Malice', which features, of all things, rap (by someone out of Pharcyde). Before you snap your Kohl pencils in disgust, it's a very grow-y song with handsome guitar noodling... no Limp Bizkit nonsense here. Honestly.
Later on, things start getting mellower and darker - the reverb'd pianos, lightly tapped drums, electronic noises all elbowing the guitars to the side for a slice of the attention. One of the nicest being Black-Eyed, which sees the electronics politely let the guitars have a go between wailed choruses. In fact, alongside current single Slave To The Wage, this is possibly a favourite moment on the album.
Also getting notable credit is 'Passive Aggressive'. Mellow, echoey and light, it soon picks up the pace just as you'd expect without the usual overkill of quiet-loud-quiet-loud songs.
As is the Placebo norm, the general themes are sex, drugs and sleaze - with the odd grown up nod to world issues (Slave To The Wage's "It's a race, a race for rats..." being just one example). Because of or despite this (whatever your take), the lyrics aren't just an aside to the music as is so common these days.
They've come back to us for a while... and we're definitely fools if we change our taste in men. It may opt for a slightly safer option than, say, Radiohead's forthcoming Kid A, but consider this a heavily revised upgrade of their back catalogue. And then some. Oh, and make sure you take off your make-up before listening if you're highly strung.
The full tracklisting is: Taste In Men, Days Before You Came, Special K, Spite & Malice, Passive Aggressive, Black-Eyed, Blue American, Slave To The Wage, Commercial For Levi, Haemoglobin, Narcoleptic, Peeping Tom, Black Market Music [Hidden track].
8Dale Price's Score