Six songs you need to know by Placebo

Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal from Placebo
(Image credit: Mads Perch)

It's been more more 25 years since Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal began Placebo, messing around with broken guitars and toy instruments in Molko’s front room in Deptford, South London. 

They didn't sound like other bands. Britpop was on the rise but it was beery and blokey, while Placebo were very distinctly not, pulling together an androgynous goth-glam hybrid that mixed rock guitar with pop nous and stories of personal alienation to make albums that somehow appealed to the mainstream as much as they did to outsiders. They've now sold 13 million, with their latest, 2022's Never Let Me Go, continuing to adventure where others fear to tread.

These six tracks are a good place to start.

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Nancy Boy

The one that started it all, Nancy Boy screams rock’n’roll and hormones with unabashed glee. Molko admits he was going for shock value, his protagonist on a wild rampage through the city, losing his lube along the way.


Without You I'm Nothing

The title track from the album on which Placebo truly flew for the first time is a perfect combination of gritty guitars, sweet vocals and an atmosphere of pure foreboding. One of the highlights of their career, and – yes! – David Bowie even lent his vocals to the remixed single version.


My Sweet Prince

Beautiful and deeply disturbing, there’s a drugged-out sadness and heartbreaking euphoria in every fibre of this elegant, piano-strewn ballad, written from a fog of bad decisions.


The Bitter End

A longtime live favourite, this rollicking and breathless cut from Sleeping With Ghosts was inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Song To Say Goodbye

Opening lyrics don’t come much more vicious than ‘You are one of God’s mistakes, you crying, tragic waste of skin.’ The Cure’s influence shines in the bass line on this slice of absolute fury.


Beautiful James

Synth-smothered and air-punch-worthy, this high point from Never Let Me Go reminds its creator of Van Halen. “Maybe this is going to be our Jump,” says Molko.


Placebo European tour dates

Oct 22: Hamburg Barclaycard Arena, Germany
Oct 24: Amsterdam Ziggo Dome, Netherlands
Oct 26: Munich Olympiahalle, Germany
Oct 27: Milan Mediolanum Forum, Italy
Oct 29: Zurich Samsung Hall, Switzerland
Oct 31: Prague O2 Universum, Czech Republic
Nov 02: Vienna Stadthalle, Austria
Nov 04: Esch El Azette Rockhal, Luxembourg
Nov 07: Cologne Lanxess Arena, Germany
Nov 08: Antwerp Sportpaleis, Belgium
Nov 10: Nancy Zenith, France
Nov 11: Paris Accorhotels Arena, France
Nov 13: Bordeaux Arkea Arena, France
Nov 14: Rennes La Liberte, France
Nov 18: Portsmouth Guildhall, UK
Nov 19: Brighton Centre, UK
Nov 21: Liverpool Eventim Olympia, UK
Nov 22: Manchester O2 Victoria Warehouse, UK
Nov 24: Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, UK
Nov 26: London O2 Academy Brixton, UK
Nov 27: London O2 Academy Brixton, UK
Nov 29: Leicester De Montfort Hall, UK
Nov 30: Leeds O2 Academy Leeds, UK
Dec 02: Newcastle Upon Tyne O2 City Hall, UK
Dec 03: Glasgow O2 Academy Glasgow, UK
Dec 05: Dublin 3Arena, Ireland
Dec 07: Cambridge Corn Exchange, UK
Dec 08: Birmingham O2 Academy Birmingham, UK

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Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.