Placebo Take Their Meds

They've decided to stop showing off their 'technical expertise' in the studio - much to the relief of almost everyone else.

Feature by Suzanne Mitchell | 17 Mar 2006

"We're in the Radiohead school - we try to avoid trends. I suppose that's why we've never been cool," divulges Steve Hewitt, drummer of glamour rock trio Placebo. After over a year of silence, 'Meds' marks the much anticipated comeback of one of Britain's most quietly successful acts.

Much to the delight of their hardcore angst-ridden followers, album number five shows a return to the band's rock roots. They've decided to stop showing off their 'technical expertise' in the studio - much to the relief of almost everyone else. The result can be described as a mature rendition of their energetic eponymous debut of 1996. Unsurprisingly, topics such as loss, betrayal, addiction and confusion, "the usual Placebo subjects" as Steve adequately puts it to us, are revisited, but he claims that "lyrically it's the most off the wall album we've done."

'Meds' includes some interesting collaborations; VV of The Kills lends her vocals to the title track. With Placebo having been college chums with The Kills for years, they felt VV was a natural choice: "she's very rock and roll, cigarettes and Jack Daniels in the studio and her voice really works for the song." The ubiquitous Michael Stipe of REM appears on Broken Promise, a song about adultery. Originally intending a duet with a woman, in typical Placebo fashion they decided on the more controversial option to have two men sing it. Hewitt reveals that he had "actually imagined Michael's voice as we were writing it."

A new album is synonymous with a fresh tour and further possibilities. The UK leg sold out in a matter of hours and kicks off at the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool on April 5. Despite massive success in Europe, Asia and South America, the elusive US market remains an untapped bounty for Placebo. With years of scratching its surface, Hewitt claims that "by now we don't really care that much" before somewhat wistfully admitting that "it would be ok if this album was the key to the door though…"

With a career now spanning over a decade, Placebo don't seem to be threatened by the onslaught of young bands of late. With the exception of Bloc Party, Hewitt appears disgusted at these bands, who he argues are ripping off the likes of Wire, Devo and Pop Group. "I don't like bands that cherry pick from their influences then water it down into radio-friendly, flavour of the moment stuff" he considers, before admitting that he's actually been listening to Radio 3 for the past few months. One can hardly blame him.

Meds' is released on March 13 through Virgin Records
The single Because I Want You is released on March 6
Placebo play Carling Academy, Glasgow on April 6.