The magical gothic imp is back! Placebo head man Brian Molko, fresh off his vocal addition to the Alpinestars' stormer "Carbon Kid" (as featured on the DVD of Player .038), has dragged his merry bunch of guitar manglers back into the studio and the result is Sleeping With Ghosts. Continuing along the path laid by their last recorded effort, 2001's Black Market Music, SWG blends angular guitars with Molko's distinctive vocal affectations with wonderful results. The album sets the tone by kicking off with the vocals-free hornet's nest of guitars that is "Bulletproof Cupid" and keeps on going. Lead single "The Bitter End" may be Placebo-by-numbers, but so what? Just because a band has a way with a hook doesn't mean they should be dismissed for sounding like themselves! The groove of "English Summer Rain," the synth-assisted "This Picture" (Alpinestars rubbing off on them?), the sweeping, achingly beautiful title track, SWG has a little bit of everything for everyone. Then there's the depressingly-lyriced but musically inspiring "Special Needs," full of tinkling keyboard loops and an echoing guitar swirl, all topped off with a soulful vocal by the mystical minirocker, encompassing everything great about Placebo. Now that's what I'm talking about.
JEREMY P. GOLDSTEIN