First off, the order I’m publishing the posts in does not represent any sort of ranking. Mostly I’ve just organised my list to try and avoid grouping similar artists or sounds together. Thought I’d use photos of my own copy of each album as I go too, so some may be a bit worse for wear. Also, if you missed my original post setting out the context for this list, please read “Ten Perfect Albums“.
I imagine a few people discovered Placebo around 1999, thanks to the success of Dangerous Liaison’s remake, Cruel Intentions. Personally, while I was certainly aware of them before that, it was their presence on the Cruel Intentions soundtrack that really got to me.
I had the soundtrack on a dubious CDR of MP3 albums, and it was on the strength of this that I ordered Placebo’s “Without You I’m Nothing” released the previous year. Amusingly, I also bought it in the most 90s way possible, via the Britannia Music Club. Placebo have gone on to become my joint favourite band, and while I love all their music, this is the album I consider (by my own definition) perfect.
Pure Morning and Every You Every Me are obvious choices as they were such iconic singles and are rightly deserving of praise. However the song that I’d point to as a personal highlight is Allergic (To Thoughts of Mother Earth). The energy to the track is something of a turning point for the album, following the haunting title track, Without You I’m Nothing.
The song, Without You I’m Nothing, is excellent, and I do adore it as part of the album. However, if you’re going to just listen to it in isolation, you’ve got to choose the single release featuring the late, great, David Bowie.
Relationship with the album
The majority of my musical preferences formed before the mid-nineties, can be traced back to/blamed on my older sisters and my brother-in-laws. Some of those influences will crop up in this list, but by 1999 I was finding my own way more and more.
Growing up, I used to fight quite a bit with Helen, the youngest of my sisters. I think because we were closest in age, and my being 4 years younger I was probably just annoying and uncool to have around. These days I aspire to be less annoying, but suspect that I am no cooler. However by the time I finished high school, we did start to become much closer. This was when we discovered we did have some overlap in our musical tastes, and Placebo was one of those we had in common.
“Without You I’m Nothing” not only takes me back to my college years, and the music I was just starting to get into then, but just as much it takes me home. Takes me to a time when our other sisters had moved out and Helen and I had discovered such shared interests as ‘walking to the pub on a Sunday evening’.
There are some vocalists that are instantly recognisable, and while Placebo certainly have a distinctive overall sound, it’s Brian Molko’s incredible voice that really sets them apart.
As I mentioned above, Placebo are my joint favourite band, along with another that’ll crop up on a later post in this series. While I’ve historically been terrible at seeing any of the bands or artists that I love live, I managed to finally change that in 2016 when Placebo came to Brighton on their 20 years of Placebo tour. They were superb, and it was everything I’d hoped for.
Before that I’d been to plenty of gigs, but always those suggested by other people. This has involved much more drum & bass and dub-step than is probably good for me. I have now turned this round, and ever since seeing Placebo have been gradually ticking other bands off my bucket list.
Other albums and songs
I know a number of people who regard Placebo’s self-titled first album as their best. I wouldn’t really contest this, as it is excellent. For the purposes of my own criteria though, it doesn’t quite hit ‘perfect’. Without You I’m Nothing is the album I come back to again and again. One of my lecturers in college was a strong advocate for their first album, and she was keen to lend me her CD so I could be convinced. I think this is the copy I still have at home. Sorry Jo.
I have found something to love on every Placebo album since, with 2013’s Loud Like Love being another favourite. I adore “Too Many Friends” from this album, and hearing it played live was very much a highlight of the gig in Brighton.
From what I’ve read, even the band don’t rate this album as highly as I do. When I decided to make this list, Without You I’m Nothing was one of the first to claim a place. It is perfect.