Placebo, Without You I’m Nothing: the golden age of alternative rock

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Once upon a time (in the 90s) there was MTV, a respectable music channel made of music videos, interviews and charts, certainly very distant from the MTV that we know today, more focused in reality shows, pregnant girls and sitcoms. Of course, we were standing in front of a chimichurri of musical styles, passing from Destiny’s Child to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged, but that was also the beauty of it.

In the late 90s we stumbled across something unique and different. No, it was not Britney Spears, it was a black and white video that had this person as a protagonist (you could not tell if it’s a man or a woman), jumping from the top of a skyscraper and walking vertically on its side. The song is titled Pure Morning and it’s a perfect mix of guitars, powerful bass to maximum volume, killer chorus and unmistakable voice. They were Placebo.

In 1998, precisely in October, one of the best records of the decade was released, so valuable that even our beloved and late Bowie decided to participate. The title was self-explanatory, who bought the record already knew what to expect. Without you I’m Nothing was a concentrate of distorted guitars, slow and full songs, fast and deep tracks. Even today it’s considered the best work of the group, that later on actually evolved towards more catchy and radio sounds.

The second single extrapolated from the album was Every Me Every You, which is not a love song as it may look from the title, but it’s a song about consumed and exhausted love, a song about disposable love. This song can also be found on the soundtrack of the movie Cruel Intentions. You don’t Care About Us was the third single, and even here we find anxiety, nihilism and malaise, basically all Placebo’s leitmotifs.

The title track Without You I’m Nothing was released as fourth single, but without an official video, a lack that is compensated by the fact that playing the guitar there is David Bowie, who was also the second voice. On YouTube you can find a beautiful live version of the song played with the Thin White Duke.

The entire album flows as smooth as oil. It’s almost impossible to avoid it to stuck in your memory and it is rightly balanced by also some slower tunes, like My Sweet Prince, The Crawl or Ask for Answers, it’s enriched with light, apparently positive songs like Summer’s Gone and Allergic and reinforced by other particularly fast ones, close to headbanging, for example Brick Shithouse and Scared of Girls.

Without You I’m Nothing is a complete journey full of pleasant surprises, and it’s so easy to get into it. You are never tired of Brian Molko’s voice, so cold, particular. It’s an album that imposed itself as a milestone of alternative rock, which reflects very well the time when it came out: a strange era, made by people who were divided into those who went clubbing and who did not, those who listened to Britney Spears and those who loved Marilyn Manson; an era when MTV was proposing some interesting and meaningful initiatives. An era that smelled like the new millennium. Like the future.

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