Plumbiferous Media

Battle for the Sun - Placebo

Jun 11th 2009
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Battle for the Sun - PlaceboPlacebo
Battle for the Sun
Score: 63








Bat­tle for the Sun is Placebo’s newest and sixth full-length. As expect­ed of a band formed around fif­teen years ago, Place­bo has solid­i­fied its sound, and Bat­tle for the Sun car­ries the heavy, dis­tort­ed gui­tar lines, dense, often com­plex drum­ming, and of course, the harsh voice and bit­ing lyrics that have been present since Placebo’s first, self-titled album. But a com­par­i­son of Bat­tle for the Sun’s cov­er art with that of any old­er Place­bo album yields a fair­ly accu­rate descrip­tion of their newest work: bland.

Most of Bat­tle for the Sun is incred­i­bly repet­i­tive or sim­ply dull, but the album does con­tain some inter­est­ing sec­tions. The drum line of the title track accom­pa­nies an extreme­ly sim­ple but some­how pow­er­ful gui­tar line, and pro­vides a detailed point of inter­est on which the track focus­es while Molko repeats as many one syl­la­ble words as pos­si­ble. The fol­low­ing track, “For What It’s Worth” demon­strates Molko’s ver­sa­til­i­ty by jux­ta­pos­ing a flow­ing vocal line with the com­plete­ly con­stant, repeat­ing title line. Lat­er, on “The Nev­er-End­ing Why,” cheer­ful bells play in com­plete con­trast to Molko’s bleak lyrics. While the album as a whole may not be an incred­i­ble demon­stra­tion of inge­nu­ity, there are still a num­ber of quite suc­cess­ful tracks.

Bat­tle for the Sun is, as expect­ed, filled with Bri­an Molko’s unmis­tak­able tones - always a bit sharp but nev­er quite shrill or strained. Though Molko’s vocals man­age to avoid becom­ing irri­tat­ing (for the most part), they do suf­fer from too con­stant a pat­tern of empha­sis, such that there are very few sur­pris­es in the way his voice devel­ops over the course of any giv­en song. Though the tracks them­selves cer­tain­ly vary, this cre­ates a con­stant thread through the album which would have ben­e­fit­ed from some vari­a­tion. Nev­er­the­less, Molko has retained his char­ac­ter­is­tic ener­gy, and so it is still more reward­ing than try­ing to lis­ten to him.

Place­bo has filled Bat­tle for the Sun with the same sort of thought-pro­vok­ing lines strewn with occa­sion­al non­sen­si­cal imagery that have dis­tin­guished its ear­li­er work. Begin­ning with the odd­ly roman­tic “Kit­ty Lit­ter,” on which Molko sings of need­ing “a change of skin” and of lov­ing a “Bat­she­ba of my choos­ing” and mov­ing on to the failed love of “Ash­tray Heart,” where the Span­ish inter­spersed among the Eng­lish lyrics lends the track remark­able vig­or, Bat­tle for the Sun cer­tain­ly has lyri­cal mer­its, espe­cial­ly in the rather dark metaphors Place­bo is so skilled at draw­ing.

How­ev­er, at the same time, Bat­tle for the Sun suf­fers great­ly from con­stant lyri­cal rep­e­ti­tion. “Bat­tle for the Sun” and “Dev­il in the Details,” in which the titles are repeat­ed inces­sant­ly through­out the tracks, are per­haps the worst offend­ers, but almost every track has a lev­el of rep­e­ti­tion which goes beyond the cre­ation of a lyri­cal pat­tern and into (or at least near) monot­o­ny.

The largest, most appar­ent ele­ment on Bat­tle for the Sun is clear­ly rep­e­ti­tion, and it per­vades every ele­ment, includ­ing gui­tar, lyrics, drums, and vocals. The rep­e­ti­tion is also not con­tained with­in a sin­gle sec­tion, such as with a gui­tar line extend­ed for longer than desir­able or a few words repeat­ed beyond their lim­it: even on the tracks that have mul­ti­ple, com­plete­ly unique sec­tions, those sec­tions often occur more than one too many times. In the end, no mat­ter how inter­est­ing ini­tial­ly, any spe­cif­ic part of Bat­tle for the Sun will almost invari­ably be repeat­ed enough to become an annoy­ance.

Bat­tle for the Sun con­tains the essence of a good album - inter­est­ing lyrics sung by an appro­pri­ate voice, well-used instru­men­tals, and good sound. Where it fails, then, is with the rep­e­ti­tion of each of these ele­ments through­out the entire album. What’s inno­v­a­tive once is gen­er­al­ly not the sec­ond or third time, and Place­bo seems to have for­got­ten this. Accord­ing­ly, Bat­tle for the Sun sim­ply doesn’t mea­sure up to Placebo’s ear­li­er work, espe­cial­ly their last album, Meds. Nev­er­the­less, the poten­tial in Bat­tle for the Sun places it at a lev­el above a good deal of direc­tion­less music. As such, Bat­tle for the Sun is above-aver­age - but not by much.


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