Saturday, July 25, 2009

Music Review: Battle for the Sun, by Placebo

It's every rock/pop performer's curse: bring out one master piece, and everyone expects you to repeat that performance over and over again. Placebo's master piece was called Without You I'm Nothing and it came out in 1998, and ever since, it seems, every album was greeted either with derision or with relief that the band hasn't sunk yet.

Battle for the Sun, the trio's latest release (with new drummer Steve Forrest), doesn't sink either - and some even call it a return to form after the last albums. Personally, I think that Meds was better, but while Battle for the Sun is not as good as it could be, it is still better than most fare out there. The group's style hasn't really changed over the years, built as it is around the driving vocals and guitar of front man Brian Molko as well as Stefan Olsdal's churning bass. The sound doesn't really change on the latest album either - even if on some tracks of this album are more mainstream than alternative/punk, and have had brass instruments and strings added. But the group still knows how to rock, and that's the most important thing: the title track, the single For What It's Worth, Bright Lights and Ashtray Heart are all brilliant.

One problem I have with the album are the lyrics on a couple of tracks, such as on Come Undone. As sharp as they are on most tracks, on some they seem to have been put together with the aid of a dictionary in order to find words that rhyme; the result is a bit like silly, clumsy europop poetry.

Battle for the Sun is one of those albums that grows on you the more you hear it, and despite the straightforward seeming sound, there are enough bits and pieces to discover upon repeated hearing.

Overall, I give the album 3.5 (bordering on 4) out of 5.

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