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Placebo | Black Market Music | review | alternative | Lollipop


Black Market Music (Virgin)
by Jamie Kiffel

Just as hot as Nancy Boy but with a deeper, even darker pulse; more personal and dimly stained with industrial-mechanical soot, Black Market Music is a delicious tongueful of filthy beauty. Brian Molko, the royal, poison flower winding above it all, releases stunning, smoky plumes of dirty shock and horror.

"Taste in Men" is just the kind of dark, demanding track that makes this disc glitter. Molko's fabulously sexy, nasal whine is an ideal counterpart to deep, groaning guitar effects. With vocals pushed far forward, Molko seems totally accessible, which brings a vicarious thrill since his lyrics tend to be deeply private - the sort of thing you'd find in the pages of an addict's journal. Magick sex, gender play and something hateful smudge up the pages. True to his signature style, Molko peppers the music with loaded and super-charged words, dirtying up the songs and stretching them, leaving room to think. "Days Before You Came," a fast-moving, wistful dream of sound, rhymes the phrases "join the masquerade" and "babies looking to get laid." There is something redolent of Versailles here: a palace perfumed and masked in gold, where the guards went behind the statues to urinate. Molko makes the profane sound sad, rich, and beautiful.

"Spite & Malice" is a complete departure from this wash of quiet, dark resolve, and it is stunning. Molko's whine fascinatingly counterpoints a gunned-out rap spat fast and hard by Justin Warfield. "Dope gods (?) fucking in the streets... Revolution!" darkly laughs the rich and charred chorus. "Black Eyed," with the tantric line, "I was never loyal except to my own pleasure zone," sounds contrastingly early Smashing Pumpkins, while "Blue American" takes all the familiarly unnerving Molko risks: after a Goth-ish sigh of a verse, "I wrote this novel just for you/That's why it's vulgar, that's why it's blue," he proclaims, "I write this novel just for mom... for all the times she sang God's song, and I say thank you mom... hi, mom." Molko's ability to make this sound like a personal message is what makes it both shocking and powerful.

Gentle enunciations of words like "motherfucker" sound like Molko is tasting them, cradling them on his tongue. Russian semiotician Viktor Schlovsky taught that by "making strange" the language, using it out of context or in unexpected ways, we give it punch and resonance, and we keep the people thinking. Molko does exactly this with phrases like, "I'm sick and tired of Maggie's farm, she's a bitch with broken arms." I don't think that line has anything to do with the folk song, but because of its solid, feel-good roots, it shocks to the core.

This disc is not only exciting, it is singable, listenable, and crammed with dirty secrets to clog your mind's jewelry box, like jewels crusted in garbage. You won't be able to resist pawing through, sniffing and staring at the beauty of the fabulous, made strange and new.


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