Placebo remains one of the most important acts of the last 30 years. Frontman by androgynous hero Brian Molko and the band have constantly railed against the worst social mores of modern Britain, and subverted them. The band for anybody different, who don’t fit in with the heteronormative society that we live in, Placebo place fluidity and the core of what they do, and have always carried the message that it is OK to be different.
Sexuality, death, violence, drug use and the modern fascination with money are just a few topics that Placebo have discussed over their long and eminent career. Molko has always had his finger on the pulse, and the band’s latest single, ‘Surrounded by Spies‘, discusses the widespread surveillance culture of contemporary society, as well as the catastrophic environmental collapse that is just around the corner but world leaders are ignoring.
Like Lou Reed, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Molko is not afraid to get into taboo subjects and discuss the darker side of the human condition. He’s an uber-realist, and his music is filled with a weight that has given the band longevity that many of their contemporaries in the 1990s could only have dreamed of having. There’s a reason why Britpop died, but Placebo remained relevant.
Molko’s lyrical style is somewhat akin to Gonzo journalism. He gets stuck into the subject he’s discussing, not afraid to tell the truth. He provides us with lessons in how we can better ourselves by shining a bright light on our faults, and often his lyrics are like a mix of Hunter S. Thompson and J.G. Ballard. His music is sexual, naughty and alluring.
Showing just how provocative the band are, in 2013, Placebo teamed up with another master of contemporary subversion, literary hero and societal commentator, Bret Easton Ellis, to deliver the two incredibly pertinent video’s for singles ‘Loud Like Love’ and ‘Too Many Friends’. A take on suburban secrets, the video for ‘Loud Like Love’ is perhaps the best out of the two.
Featuring the intrigue of Desperate Housewives fused with the surrealism of a Pynchon novel, it really is quite something. It’s a suburban mystery, and Ellis leads us through it as if he were a teacher, the supreme social commentator, showing young private eye’s what they’ve missed.
It comes with the suggestive type of muzak we’d associate with 1950s America, and is introduced as ‘Unfortunate Details with Bret Easton Ellis’. At the inception, he says: “Welcome back viewers, in today’s lesson, we are going to watch another unfortunate event.” We then see a woman spewing on her boyfriend before he’s promptly rugby tackled into the swimming pool.
Ellis discusses the event in detail, explaining that there are “leading particulars” for it, and that we’ve missed 71 clues in one single frame. Then, it cuts to the band playing in black and white on an old fashioned, 1950s style TV set. The music kicks in, and we get to witness the other clues.
With intriguing scripts, both are brilliant takes on the concept of a music video. We hope to see Easton Ellis and Placebo team up again one day.
Watch both videos below.