1. Without You I’m Nothing
Placebo’s second album, of which this is the title track, changed my life. I went from fan to devotee overnight. It was the first time I had ever loved a popstar like I loved Kurt Cobain – I cut my hair, painted my nails black, bought a charity shop fur and started hanging out in Soho immediately.
2. 36 Degrees
The first Placebo song I ever heard, which coincided with reading an article about them in Select magazine. I cut the photograph out and stuck it on my wall, and listened to this song on repeat.
3. I Know
The first time I heard this song, it was one of those coming-home musical moments, when you find exactly what you’ve been looking for in your life.
4. Speak In Tongues
Even though I was nearly 30 when this came out, Molko can still reduce me to teenage goth in an instant – and this song does. I like to picture the two of us on a desolate beach in a thunderstorm while this song plays. And for anyone who enjoys Brian’s unique rhyming skills, this is a classic example: ‘Don’t let them have their way/You’re beautiful and so blasé/Don’t fall back into the decay/There is no law we must obey/Don’t let them have their way/Don’t give in to yesterday/We can build a new tomorrow – today.’ Magnificent.
5. Spite and Malice
I had to have something from Black Market Music and it kind of had to be this one. It’s just too unlikely – Placebo doing a rap song with the chorus ‘revolution, dope, guns, fucking in the streets’. I know every word and I love it.
6. Miss Moneypenny
At their witty, grubby best on this early B-side, which actually really is about James Bond. With scathing and lots of innuendo, obviously. ‘It’s a dirty job – shooting guns just makes you horny…’
7. Then The Clouds Will Open For Me
Lots of my favourite Placebo songs are actually B-sides and this is another where they’re at their early, melodramatic best. I over-identified with it way too much – and still tip my hat to the rhyming of ‘transcontinental’ and ‘tattoo ornamental’.
8. Special Needs
I fell a little bit out of love with Placebo for a while around Sleeping With Ghosts and Meds, which I am pleased to report was a chrysalis we have all come out of. Still, they always had a special place in my heart and this is probably my favourite song of my least-favourite Placebo era.
9. The Crawl
I had to have another from Without You I’m Nothing. I have cried to this song, often with Louise, many times. Not surprising when the lyrics are so heartbreaking in Brian’s for once plaintive little voice. ‘Your smile would make me sneeze/When we were Siamese. Amazing grace, in here/I’d pay to have you near.’
10. Our Lady of the Flowers
As I am fond of recounting, this inspired my discovery of Jean Genet – and my fascination with libertinism was established for life. This is a gorgeous, uncharacteristically understated song. ‘She stole the keys to my house/And then she locked herself out’ – breaks my heart every time.
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