Classic Album Review :: Placebo — Without You I’m Nothing

You know that song you heard somewhere and you really liked it but have no clue who it’s by and the internet is such that you cannot look it up and everything is horrible because you need to find that song? Yeah — that was me about 15 years ago.

The song that I could never find was Pure Morning. It is the first track on this not-punk album. Finding that out and purchasing the album brought me down a rabbit hole where I could never find the surface, but I also never wanted to find a surface. With deceptivly simple everything, this album is amazing.

Pure Morning has lyrics similar to a child’s rhyme. Of course, if you heard your child singing these words, you would be far from ecstatic at their choice of vernacular. The entire song appears to be about discovering ones sexuality while also discovering drugs. The title “Pure Morning” reflects the relief of discovering everything the night before. The act of reflecting on your actions and adoring every decision you made.

What did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.deceptivelyWhat did I mean by disceptivly simple? Look no further than track two. The guitar tuning is warped, the bass is full of exact slides that feel improvised but are very concise, and the drums are fast and loose. The vocalist confused me when I was younger. I couldn’t figure out their gender, neither by listening or by looking. That started my journey into the world of learning what exactly what gender is. Immediately, I learned that gender is a created term, and learned a lot of things about the existence of the LGBTQ+ world. Not that the band had lyrics that made me question everything, but the very existing of such people bending social norms in the ’90s intrigued me.

Anyway, off the political stuff. That continues to be a sore topic for a large number of people, and delving down that rabbit hole will take me horribly off-topic from this fantastic album.

How would I describe the sound? Think Pixies meets Pink Floyd with a dance of The Clash. How? Pixies because they buck pop norms while also being pop. Pink Floyd because of the use of effects to not only add to a sound, but actually create a sound. The Clash because… well… there really is no reason. It was a proclamation that I made without putting too much thought into it. At the same time, it kind of fits because someone would have a difficult time making me ignore the obvious punk influence in the music. Yes, they are also a pop band. Maybe saying The Clash is too much of a departure, but leaving the punk aspect to just The Pixies feels like it ignores a whole facet of influence.

ANYWAY. I could go on circles all day speaking of influence, but there is no denying that the title track (Without You, I’m Nothing, track five) is a very Pink Floyd reminiscent track. On the next release (Black Market Music), David Bowie does a duet with the singer. As much as this is, by far, my favourite track on this album, that version of the song is perfect. In acknowledging that, it DOES NOT take from this version at all. It still contains one of the best soul crushing buildups in music that I have ever found. They literally go from minimal instrumentation to ALL the instrumentation in a matter of a few bars. To add to the finesse, it beautifully flows into the next track.

Fuck me, I could go on and on about this album, but most of it would just be repeating what I already talked about, OR it would just devolve into incohearent rambles that drone on and on for much longer than I would like them to. I mean, I have speant this long and I only bought up two songs, one of which I did no description for except saying that it is amazing. So, I will sign off on this review with a song that I didn’t talk about, but is equally amazing.

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Another Top 10

I awoke this morning with lyrics in my head. I assume that is not strange for the masses, but I am a drummer: I usually do not remember lyrics because I am distracted by the music. I had this urge to highlight songs that actually mean something to me, so here are the top 10. I know that I have done something like this before, but I am going to point out the songs that mean something to me, not the albums. This list contains tracks from albums that would never touch a top ten, and there are one or two that I only listen to the album for that song.

I reiterate: I am a drummer. A couple of these songs are just on this list because the drums are so fucking cool. In the interest of transparency, I will point that out when it comes to fruition.

Animals as Leaders- CAFO
Let’s start with one where the drums sold me on the very premiss. CAFO is easily one of those complicated songs I have ever heard. I think why I put this on my top ten as opposed to something from Godspeed You! Black Emperor is because it remains one of my favourite memories. I saw this back open for BTBM a few years ago. They were playing a flawless set, then they got to this song. The drummer added just ONE snare hit before a fairly easy part (compared to the rest of the song, anyway), and the guitar players got SO lost. It was just so fantastic to see that even Gods can fuck something up.

Samsaris- Góða Tungl
No, I cannot pronounce this title to save my life. I can, however, proudly put it in my top list. This song is absolutely beautiful. There is something incredibly haunting about the clarinet in contrast with the vocals. This song speaks to me on every level, though I have no clue what they are saying.
I refuse to look up a translation. I am afraid of hating what they are actually saying.

Blood Brothers- Love Rhymes With Hideous Car Wreck
A rather bleak way of describing eternal love and blind devotion, I first heard this song around a time when I thought I was in love with a girl. In hindsight, she was horrible. I know she does not read this blog (because we hate each other now) but, this song is for you.
Love love love love love love love. (rhymes with pity now)

Kevin Drew- TBTF
There was a time I almost got those four letters tattooed on my person: TBTF (to beautiful to fuck) is a story about love. Innocent love. A desperate person holding onto the relationship they have with a friend who is attractive.
ALTERNATE MEANING:
Someone who is rejecting someone they should be interested in, but they cannot justify it.
To be honest, I have no fucking idea what this song is about. I just know that I love it and relate far too much to it. Because I am oblivious to what it is actually about, I use it to rationalize uncomfortable situations I found myself in with friends.

The Dresden Dolls- Girl Anachronism
Piano and drums? Yes, please! Is it to bold to ask for sarcastic and self deprecation on the side? No? Perfect.
I play. This whole album is amazing, but I think that it is perfectly summed up by this track. Fast. Angry. Dynamic.

Incubus- A Crow Left Of the Murder
Puns in the name and probably the coolest guitar riff ever written by a band, it is easy for me to talk about how much I love this song. The more interesting way to do it is to leave the link up top and see how many of you listen to it.

Placebo- Without You I’m Nothing
Think Pink Floyd, but modern. I almost put the version with David Bowie on this list, but the original will do beautifully.

Nine Inch Nails- La Mer
I fucking love this song. Soothing, beautiful, haunting. The trifecta of amazing. I actually refuse to look up the translation for this song for fear of ruining the feel of it.

Poison the Well- The Realist
Does this song demonstrate everything I love about this band? No. It does the opposite. This song contains the most beautiful vocal melody I think I have ever heard and I just need to share it with everyone I meet. Listen. Enjoy.

Sufjan Stevens- I Want To Be Well
This was the song that actually inspired me to make this list. I fell in love with this song back when the album came out in 2010. I was working in a record store and was trying desperately to be the cool-indi-music-guy (and failing very hard at it). I had gotten into Sufjan about a year earlier from the Illinoise album, and I thought I got where he was coming from. The Age Of Adz proved to me that I should shut up and admit that I do not understand anything about music what-so-ever.
This song was my anthem. When I was cruising around at three in the morning, I would blare this song out my windows, singing along and staining my voice. I am positive that I disturbed a few sleeping people, but I was earnestly saying those words in all their glory. “I want to be well.” If I only knew then that not five years later I could relate more those words than I did at the time. If I only focused on what I had and not what I was loosing. Maybe, just maybe, things all could have been amazing.

I digress. Do yourself a favour and PLEASE listen to these songs. Especially the last one, it holds a place in my life that only I know of.

To state again: these are just 10 that remind me to listen to the whole album again. They are in no way my top favourite albums, and not even the top recommendations I could make. They are just some great songs that I find myself thinking about a lot.