As albums bearing the endorsement of Michael Stipe go, Placebo’s Meds is, if nothing else, less appalling than talentless electroclash pottymouth Peaches’ damn near unlistenable Fatherfucker. A version of Coldplay’s X&Y for the Hot Topic set, Meds finds a successful band doing just a little to tinker with their proven formula—in this case, bombastic melodic hooks supporting straightforward, repetitive lyrical turns-of-phrase—and attempting to pass off a few too many soundalike tracks as thematic coherence. Of course, content has never been Placebo’s selling point—I’ll freely and gladly go on record to state that “Pure Morning” is one of my favorite guilty-pleasure singles of the ‘90s, gloriously one-note and empty-headed as it is—so it’s not much of a problem for a song like “Follow The Cops Back Home” to hinge on a god-awful “Jimmy Choo/Shampoo” rhyme or for the refrain of the title track to be a simple “Baby, did you forget to take your meds?” Instead, the twin foci of Meds, as on Placebo’s previous efforts, remain frontman Brian Molko’s nasal, glammy vocal drone and its interplay with the band’s aggressive, consistently underrated rhythm section. The stomping “Infra-Red” and its counterpoint, “Post Blue,” are the clear stand-outs on the album, though duets with The Kills’ Allison “VV” Mosshart on the title track and Stipe on the dramatic “Emotional Storm” give the album just enough variety in its sound to earn more than just a passing recommendation to those beyond Placebo’s still sizable fanbase.
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