Placebo - Battle For The Sun
Craig Broad 11/06/2009
The loss of a long time member can have a profound effect on a band. In some cases it can mean the end of a band, maybe they continue making music but they never quite grasp the heights that they once hung on to so tightly. In other cases it can be the making of the band, underground cult bands have lost main members and gone on to gain commercial mainstream success, proving everyone wrong on the way. Having released five albums to date ('Battle For The Sun' being their sixth) and having already reached the dizzying heights of their success with 'Without You I'm Nothing' and 'Black Market Music' and then fallen spectacularly with the lacklustre release of their last album 'Meds', Placebo do not seem to be in the same position as most bands since the loss of drummer Steve Hewitt. They do however; have a lot more to prove since the evident decline in their mainstream popularity. Is new member Steve Forrest the fire that Placebo need to push their way back in the limelight or are they destined to create another average record?
Initially 'Battle For The Sun' comes across very un-Placebo like with the intro of 'Kitty Litter', it isn't long however, until Molko starts singing in his usual manner and despite the edgy cutting guitars that slice through this track, Molko's vocal tone sounds weak alongside mediocre lyrics that may have once been charming but now, sound frustratingly immature. It isn't until the bridge that we begin to hear something new as Molko spits "I need a change in skin" which leads to an extremely catchy clap-along moment that we previously wouldn't have heard in a Placebo track. Maybe this is Molko's battle cry for the rest of 'Battle For The Sun'?
Musically, you couldn't argue that it is a battle cry. While every track on 'Battle For The Sun' sounds like Placebo, it is only generally through Molko's original vocal tone rather than the music. Placebo have escaped the traps of 'Meds' merely by experimenting with instruments that previously we wouldn't have heard. Tracks like 'Battle For The Sun' contain violins and new single 'For What It's Worth' is adorned with electronic samples, imaginative female backing vocals and a horn section. Such inclusions may not be hugely original for a band of such stature but they add an epic effect that bring the songs to a whole new level of listening, where every new listen brings a musical part that you didn't previous hear.
With 'Battle For The Sun', you hear a band refreshed with the addition of new drummer, Steve Forrest. You hear a band, obviously talented but brought down by the fact that their output previously, at least in a singles format was at such a high mainstream level that it was always going to be difficult to maintain. 'Battle For The Sun' is a good album, showing a more upbeat, edgy and experimental side than we've previously heard whilst still maintaining the song writing craft Placebo have. It is a huge step up from 'Meds' but at the same time, it will always be put in comparison to previous albums and while it is, as said, a good album, it's not life affirming or memorable like songs on the previously adored 'Without You I'm Nothing' and 'Black Market Music'. What 'Battle For The Sun' does show, is that six albums in, a band can still show promise for their seventh. Unlucky this time Placebo but maybe lucky number seven?