The basic tenets of the rock & roll manifesto--sex and drugs, dangerously excessive lashings of both--have always figured prominently in Placebo's glitterered-up, androgynous rock oeuvre. Sleeping with Ghosts
is a little more coy (but just as sordid), dealing more with the torturous psychoanalysis of love and longstanding relationships than with the instantly-gratifying exchange of bodily fluids.
Not that there isn't any room for fetishism and coital undernourishment. "This Picture", for example, apparently dwells on the doomy side of sado-masochism and comes over as just the sort of trash-glam pop stomp Suede once excelled at--that is until Brett Anderson knocked the funny stuff on the head and started gazing at rainbows. If press reports are to be believed these days--and the jury's out--Placebo are just as likely to turn their noses up at plates of narcotics as to plunge their nostrils in with glee. Not that they've cheered up. "The Bitter End" ("since we're feeling so anaesthetised") is one big bruising rock-out waving the flag of philosophical fatalism; rather like men rushing head-long into a brick wall at high speed, Placebo can't wait to get to their final date with destiny quick enough. At times it's hard to tell whether Brian Molko is repulsed or perversely gratified by his chosen subject matter, although he's definitely bored with the weather (the cheerless "English Summer Rain" is a subdued, sighing pop tune, driven by rhythmic jolts of electronica) and the waltztime, Doors-influenced "Protect Me from What I Want" finds him praying to be delivered from his own personal temptations (or demons).
Sleeping with Ghosts, however, is every bit as much an album for slam-dancing nights out at Goth-favouring haunts as it is for the psychiatrists' couch. --Kevin Maidment