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4.1 out of 5 stars
Sleeping With Ghosts
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 May 2003
After three years, London-based rock trio Placebo has finally arrived with long-awaited fourth album, Sleeping with Ghosts. With their previous three records all hitting top 10 in the UK, the expectations for the new album are, to say the least, elevated. Then it is with no small amount of pleasure that many fans, after having heard the new tracks, pronounced Sleeping with Ghosts Placebo’s best album to date. I, for one, am inclined to agree.
Taking their cues from the likes of DJ Shadow this time around, Placebo cleverly sidestep the pitfalls that dance/electronica influences often represent, and manage to fuse these influences effortlessly with their unique style. The arrangement chosen to showcase the music has a lot to do with this – in general, odd-numbered tracks on the album lean toward their old, guitar-driven approach with trademark ‘insect buzz’ distortion and simple punky rhythms; whereas even-numbered tracks showcase their new direction, with a couple of quiet, piano-led tracks to close off.
The album opens with a sinister, frenzied instrumental reminiscent of the hidden track 'Evil Dildo' from second album Without You I’m Nothing, but as the record wears on, this quickly proves itself to be a red herring as to an indication of where the album is heading. Track 2, 'English Summer Rain', features vocalist Brian Molko on drums, providing a bouncy vibe and melodies you can’t help but sing along to. 'Special Needs' is another highlight in a similar style, with lines like ‘remember me / when every nose starts to bleed’ exemplifying Placebo’s usual lyrical perversity. How *very* Brian Molko.
'The Bitter End', the first single off the album, is typical Placebo, perhaps with a little more melody than previous material. This newfound love of tunes features throughout the record, with is all the better for it. Placebo’s old, arse-on-fire running-with-guitars style sits heavily on tracks such as 'Plasticine' and 'Second Sight', and 'This Picture' comes across like a close relative of 1998’s 'You Don’t Care About Us'.
The title track is more than a highlight. Upon the first few listens it is already elevated to a status equal to despondent Placebo classics such as 'Without You I’m Nothing' and 'My Sweet Prince'. Stealing a couple of lines from Les Misérables, this a heartbroken anthem backed by sparse electronica and a gorgeous tune. ‘Soulmates never die’, laments Molko in his remarkable helium-laced voice, bringing to the fore blatant emotional intensity and fierce love.
Musically, Sleeping with Ghosts is marvellous. The band has struck gold with the heady mix of electronica, their signature trashy lite-punk and Molko’s constantly above-par vocal performance. Though the words are competent enough, it doesn’t ever get back to the lyrical genius exemplified in early Placebo. But overall, that’s a small price to pay. This is a dazzling album, a must-have for every Placebo fan and many more people besides.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 21 March 2003
Placebo have never been a band for major changes of direction, but Sleeping With Ghosts sees them consolidating strengths across the board and venturing into new, electronica-influenced territory. First single 'The Bitter End' is classic Placebo, recalling the punky immediacy of their first album, yet simultaneously mixing in some spooky piano and swirling harmonies that deepen the sound a bit. Opening instrumental 'Bulletproof Cupid' and 'Second Sight' both also follow the same tack, blistering along and ripping everything in their path to shreds.
Meanwhile, there's something new afoot on 'English Summer Rain', which schizophrenically leaps between a chorus that showcases a lush, rhythmic keyboard effect, a sleazy verse with almost funk-style bass and Molko dirtily beckoning 'I'm in the basement baby - drop on by', before entering an ending section that is scarily resemblent of Linkin Park, with its chant of 'Hold your breath and count to ten/Fall apart then start again' and a synth that sounds right out of 'In The End' or 'Crawling'. It should be horrific, but somehow they pull it off.
They've still got the power to be emotionally devastating, too. The acoustic-led title track is as beautiful and heartbreaking as anything they've ever done, right up there with 'Without You I'm Nothing' and 'Peeping Tom', yet its building sound and electronica drums and synths make it ever more wonderful that those two tracks, as Molko calls 'soulmate dry your eyes' in a moment where his vocals leave behind their sneer and just float over the canvas that his bandmates weave. Lyrically, it's a high point - along with 'Protect Me From What I Want', their third political lyric ('corporate America wakes/Coffee Republic in case') after trying the tactic on 'Spite and Malice' and 'Haemoglobin' off their last album.
Meanwhile 'This Picture' and 'Special Needs' see them create two of the best songs of their career. The former opens as urban cool, before exploding into a soaring, major-chord chorus with a bleeping arpeggio synth and a killer tune. The latter, too begins unremarkably, but when it explodes, it goes into a soundscape quite unlike anything before it, and its one to die for.
It doesn't all quite work. 'Something Rotten' attempts to experiment and create a disturbing, difficult, jagged track to reflect its lyric on abuse, but comes across simply as an unlistenable mess; while 'I'll Be Yours' just smacks of filler, evoking emotions that have been brought out better a million times before, not least by Placebo themselves. Final track 'Centrefolds' too, is something of a letdown, perfectly passable but not the emotional climax that we've come to expect from a Placebo closer, and 'Plasticine' is something of Placebo-by-numbers. Overall, though, its another winning album, which broadens out Placebo's sound and justifies their places in our hearts for a good while yet.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2003
I've been an obsessional Placebo fan since the age of 14, and after hearing 'Sleeping With Ghosts', I am incredibly relieved to find that it stirs up the same melancholy and angst that I felt from their debut. SWG is definately a more mature album than the previous three, and I am not in the least surprised that many 'Without You I'm Nothing' devotees have been dissapointed by the move away from tortured lyrics and aching guitar sounds. There is an emphasis on melodic guitars which takes a lot of influence from bands like Joy Division and Nick Cave, and the use of electronic sound overlaying the persistant guitars is quite beautiful, if very different from the urgency of the past albums. Brian Molko's distinctive and haunting voice adds a very individual element to their sound, whether he is chanting over complex melodies, or singing urgently through the walls of melancholy sound.
'Sleeping With Ghosts' is not an album for people who are looking for a return to the spunk and glitter days of 'Placebo' or the heartbreak and desolation of 'Without You I'm Nothing'. Nor is it as cynical and morbid as Black Market Music. It is an intelligent, inspired album which would not be out of place alongside Joy Division's 'Substance' or Sonic Youth's 'Daydream Nation'. In years to come, I feel sure that this will be looked back upon as a classic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2003
One thing about living in a small town with only one wee record shop is that you'll occasionally buy something you might never have dreamt of buying in another situation - which is how I finished up with a copy of Ghosts and which is also why I immediately bought all the other Placebo stuff in the shop too. I was attracted mainly by the covers disc and it really is a wonderful mix - keen and crashing versions of thrilling songs - listen to Chilton's Holocaust - spinetingling. Only Big Mouth doesn't work vocally - the ghostly tone of Moz is just too strong. And the Placedo songs are excellent too - some of the best post-Smiths guitar smacking you'll ever hear - while that distinctive voice, half irritable sheep, half underfed Persian cat, really grows on you. The lyrics are inevitably the doomy decadent teenagey drug & disease stuff which old Brian is famous for & should be about to grow out of but there's wit as well and all in all this cd was an immensely pleasant surprise.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2003
I agree to a certain extent with what these writers have noted. From the little I have heard of the new album, it is again a change. Placebo certainly seem reluctant to say the least, to settle on just one musical style, or even one instrument. their debut and WYIN were both huge hits with me and both full of life and vitality, even the sadder more emotionally draining songs. SWG is an interesting move for the band, with much lower inhibitions as far as experimental musical techniques are concerned. We need look only as far as 'Bitter End' to see that the range or amount of instruments os not huge but put to great use. I feel fondly f this new album and it marks a step forward for the three (or should I say five?) musketeers and wish them every fortune in the near future
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2003
Placebo's version on the global rock scene has always been met by a mixed response, their take on glam earning them an open-minded fan base that ignore or even embrace the bands eccentricities. Dress sense aside, and what one finds is that Placebo create music that teems with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Their most potent outing to date was the heart-stopping 'Without You I'm Nothing', toying with lament at one moment, exploding with forceful anger the next.
Sleeping with Ghosts is a more gentle affair, though frontman Brian Molko's still echoes the shameless insecurity that haunts most of WYIN's 12-track coupe. Dissapointment followed Black Market Music's shabby mediocrity, but this album - Placebo's 4th - seeps with class. Single 'The Bitter End' is an frantic scramble, with soaring guitars and the kind of driving rhythm that characterised Placebo's earlier work. Steven Hewitt's drums are thunderous, hammering home every last ounce of desperation that is conjured by Molko's pleading vocals and Stefan Oldsal's roaring bass.
Title track 'Sleeping with Ghosts' is suitably evocative, whilst standout track 'Special Needs' is reminiscent of WYIN's 'You Don't Care About Us'. The album is almost worth the full complement of 5*, but it still falls slightly short of Placebo's greatest work yet. This is a beautiful record by anyone's standards, swarming with shameless and honest emotion. Worth every penny.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2003
Phew! For a while I had been dreading the release of Sleeping With Ghosts. There was the anticipation of whether it would rise to the standards of their previous efforts, but this - Placebo's fourth LP - has not failed to impress.
Instrumental opener 'Bulletproof Cupid' sets a dark, moody scene for the album, and leads into the fantastic 'English Summer Rain' and rather disturbing 'This Picture'.
Let's face it though - they released 'The Bitter End', and everybody loved their epic return, but we all knew that deep down it would be one of the best songs on here - which it is, and so it does leave you feeling slightly disappointed (even though we all knew it anyway) that it isn't 12 tracks of explosive guitars and exciting riffage. But this is Placebo we're talking about - that's not what they're meant to be.
So the standard format has been used again for this album - there are the tracks which will be released, there are the tracks covering controversial topics, there are the tracks that will set a live performance on fire, and there are the gentle ballad types. All the flavours have once again been thrown in for good fun, and it has produced a very fresh and rather stunning new album. Let's hope they can pull it off for a fifth time aswell.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2003
I am a long-time Placebo fan and I love all their previous albums. This album, with its newer, more complex sound, is definately another demonstration of development and professionalism from the boys. It is probably the most emotional of all Placebo albums, demonstrated in songs such as "Special Needs", "I'll Be Yours" and "Sleeping With Ghosts" (which is also political). Its faults lie not in the songs, but in the order of the tracks. The album opens with a blasting "Bulletproof Cupid" with cool riffs, but "English Summer Rain" destroys the excitement and flow. "Sleeping With Ghosts" should be further in the album, again killing the momentum brought on by "This Picture". (Also, the "Soulmates" version of "SWG" on the "This Picture" single would have suited the the album better).And so it goes on. Another disappointment was the lack of a hidden track after the usual 12 tracks (as in every other Placebo album released until now).
Despite the monstrous order of the tracks, the songs themselves are fantastic. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially since it is the most accessible Placebo album.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2003
Me being a huge Placebo fan can run you through how great this new album is. This album is pure sunset music, and I love it. Brian Molko manages to mature through every single album they have released, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that this album was by far overdue, yet, it was worth the wait. When I first listened to this album I found that there wasn't many songs on it that I like, but as I have experienced with every Placebo album it takes a few listen to, to like the song. The following tracks that stand out on this album are: Plasticine, Special Needs, This Picture, The Bitter End, Second Sight and Centrefolds. I like to relate this album to the older Placebo albums, and I can honestly say that Placebo mature through every album. Brian Molko always manage to surprize me with someting new...rather than being monotonous by sticking to the same path, An example of a new style from Placebo would be "Something Rotten", It's very different, I wasn't impressed with this song when I heard it but now I love it. I suggest you buy this album because it is full of different emotions such as: angst, depression, happyness. Not many artists allow you to have this choice. Placebo's next single is Special Needs and its amazing. Buy this album, its pure talent!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2003
I've been a big fan of Placebo for many years now, and having bought their three previous albums I of course went right out and bought SWG. I was suprised by the mellow and almost haunting theme that drifts through the whole album and I consider it to be a very new angle for Placebo to tackle things from. My favourites are without a doubt "This Picture" and "I'll Be Yours", This Picture showcasing very original lyrical content and an infectious musical backdrop which completes the song entirely. I'll Be Yours is just an exquisite beauty of heartbreaking lyrics and melodic beats; arguably the best song on the album.
"The Bitter End" is typical Placebo - loud guitars, echoed hushes of Brian Molko's entrancing voice and a harsh yet enjoyable beat. I think it was a very good choice for a first single. "Sleeping With Ghosts" (the title track) is haunting, melancholy and a clever mixture of new material and Placebo-esque traits.
SWG is a complete revelation and a welcomed return to one of the most influential bands ever to surface on the rock scene. I personally adore it, and have a great attachment to each and every one of the songs it encases. Undoubtably one of the most inspiring, vivid, heartbreaking and haunting albums of 2003.
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