Placebo (album)

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For other uses, see Placebo (disambiguation).
Studio album by Placebo
Released 17 June 1996
Recorded Spring 1996 at Westland Studios, Dublin, Ireland
Genre Alternative rock
Label Hut, Elevator Music
Producer Brad Wood
Placebo chronology
Without You I'm Nothing
Singles from Placebo
  1. "Come Home"
    Released: 1 April 1996
  2. "36 Degrees"
    Released: 3 July 1996
  3. "Teenage Angst"
    Released: 16 September 1996
  4. "Nancy Boy"
    Released: 20 January 1997
  5. "Bruise Pristine"
    Released: 12 May 1997

Placebo is the eponymous debut studio album by alternative rock band Placebo, released on 16 July 1996, through Hut Records. It is the only album recorded with drummer Robert Schultzberg before his departure from the group.

The album was a commercial success in the UK, reaching number 5 in the UK Albums Chart. Placebo has been critically well received, with Q magazine readers voting it at number 87 in its "All Time Top 100 Albums" list.[1] Virgin placed the album 154th in its "All-Time Top 1000 Albums" list.[2] The album also spawned five singles, including "Nancy Boy" and "36 Degrees". The album was remastered and reissued in 2006 for its tenth anniversary; the anniversary release included demos and a DVD featuring live performances and music videos from the album.

Background and recording[edit]

Placebo was formed in 1994 with the partnering of Brian Molko (vocals, guitar) and Stefan Olsdal (guitar, bass). At the time, Olsdal was taking guitar lessons and was on his way home when he met Molko at the South Kensington tube station. Molko, observing that Olsdal had a guitar strapped to his back, invited Olsdal to watch him perform at a local bar. On the strength of Molko's performance, Olsdal decided that they should start a band.[3]

The two initially formed Ashtray Heart, a lo-fi duo, playing mostly on children's toy instruments. The duo needed a drummer, and although Steve Hewitt, who would play later with Placebo, was their first choice, he was working with London-based band Breed at the time. This led Robert Schultzberg to assume the position of drummer. Schultzberg had known Olsdal from boarding school in Sigtuna, Sweden where they'd played together in a band.[4]

The newly formed band released the single "Come Home" on Deceptive Records in 1995. This led to signing a contract with Hut Records and the band began to work on their debut album. Placebo was recorded over two months in 1996 in Dublin and London and was produced by Brad Wood.

After an argument in August 1996 shortly before their first TV appearance, Molko decided that it would be best for the band if Schultzberg left. But Schultzberg suggested playing together until they finished the promotion for the album, which the band accepted.[5] Before going on stage for their first show in the state of New York, Olsdal informed Schultzberg that he wouldn't perform on the tour in Germany that was following the US tour. Schultzberg played two more shows with the band in Paris after the US tour, the last of which was a performance at "Nulle Part Aillleurs". Molko has said that he was "tired of being the focus of Robert's rages against the world".[5] Schultzberg left the band in September 1996 and was replaced by Hewitt.[6]


Lyrics and themes[edit]

Many of the songs on Placebo were written in 1995. The album's opening track "Come Home", Molko simply said, is, “punk pop for postponed suicides”.[7] "Teenage Angst" is about the emotions you feel as a teenager and want to have everything kept to yourself and create your own world,[8] while Molko confusingly says "Bionic" is “about a robot fuck”.

The meaning of the album's fourth song "36 Degrees", either sexual preference or death, has caused debate among fans. Molko has stated the title is a play on words regarding the expression "cold blooded", as the average human body temperature is 37 °C (99 °F).[9] Molko has stated the song's inspiration came from his fascination with skin texture and the warmth of other human bodies; moreover, he originally intended to call the album Body Politic.[10]

"Hang On to Your IQ" is about self-deprecation regarding intelligence. Molko has stated it is the most "story-like" song on the album, “The person [in the song] is having a breakdown about every physical and emotional thing they could feel.”[10]

"Nancy Boy" differs from previous songs' themes about drugs, sex, gender confusion and bisexuality.[11][12] Molko states the album's hidden track "HK Farewell" was inspired by an acid trip Molko and Olsdal had, saying it was never written in a state of reality.[13]


Another picture of David Fox shown on the inserts of the album

On 23 June 2012, it emerged that the boy photographed in the iconic album cover, David Fox (shown wearing a red jumper and pulling his face downward) threatened to sue the band for 'ruining' his life. His cousin Saul Fletcher took the photo and a month later simply told Fox he was going to be on a CD cover without asking him if it was OK. He claimed he was quite popular at the time but when the album came out everyone used to bully him.[14][15]

The inserts for the album feature another picture of the boy on the cover and a very small picture of the band. The rest of it is green or blue paper, with no lyrics. The reason for this is that Molko did not want people to focus on the liner, but rather the music itself.[16]


Placebo was released 16 June 1996 in the UK[17] on Elevator music/Hut Records and 9 July in the US[citation needed] on Caroline Records on CD, cassette and vinyl.[18][19][20] The album went at number 5 in the UK Albums Chart[17] staying there for 13 weeks[21] and at number 50 in France.[22] The album went gold in the UK on 1 May 1997.[23] and platinum in France.[24]

Prior to the release of Placebo several singles were released to promote the album: "Bruise Pristine", "Come Home" and "36 Degrees". Placebo released two more singles after the release of the album: "Teenage Angst" and "Nancy Boy". "Nancy Boy" was a hit and reached number 4 in the UK Singles Chart. Placebo filmed music videos for all singles from this album.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[25]

Placebo has been generally well received by critics. Allmusic said:

The key to Placebo's sound is singer/guitarist Brian Molko, whose impersonation of a woman goes far beyond his appearance and into his singing voice. His trio brings together various influences -- the epic, noisy "Chicago sound," late-'70s prog rock, and late-'80s "college rock"—but boils them down into fairly conventional, guitar-heavy melodrama, with the sort of opaque and angst-ridden lyrics usually found in that genre", adding that it's "not to say that Placebo's sound is boring; churning guitars and direct, heavy basslines give the album a good deal of strength, and Molko is able to write moving, gritty melodies and fairly clever lyrics.[26]

In 1998, Q magazine readers voted it at number 87 in its "All Time Top 100 Albums" list.[1] Virgin placed the album 154th in its "All-Time Top 1000 Albums" list.[2]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Placebo. 

No. Title Length
1. "Come Home"   5:09
2. "Teenage Angst"   2:42
3. "Bionic"   5:00
4. "36 Degrees"   3:05
5. "Hang On to Your IQ"   5:13
6. "Nancy Boy"   3:48
7. "I Know"   4:44
8. "Bruise Pristine"   3:35
9. "Lady of the Flowers"   4:47
10. "Swallow"   4:49
2006 reissue bonus tracks
No. Title Length
11. "Paycheck" (demo) 2:59
12. "Flesh Mechanic" (demo) 4:28
13. "Drowning by Numbers"   2:57
14. "Slackerbitch"   3:23
15. "H K Farewell"   7:30

Initial pressings of the CD included "H.K. Farewell" as a hidden track, which began playing approximately 10 minutes after the end of "Swallow". Certain versions of the album replaced the album version of "Nancy Boy" with the single version, known as "Nancy Boy (Sex Mix)".

The band debated whether or not to put "Slackerbitch" on the record. They eventually decided against it, replacing the track with "Nancy Boy". "Slackerbitch" was included on the 2006 reissue.

10th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD
  • "Come Home" (Alexandra Palace - 11.04.06) – 5:00
  • "Teenage Angst" (The Big Breakfast - 29.08.96) – 2:39
  • "Nancy Boy" (Top of the Pops - 31.01.97) – 3:09
  • "Lady of the Flowers" (Glastonbury Festival - 27.06.98) – 5:41
  • "Teenage Angst" (The White Room - 23.08.96) – 2:29
  • "Bruise Pristine" (Top of the Pops - 23.05.97) – 2:33
  • "36 Degrees" (Wembley Arena - 05.11.04) – 5:02
  • "36 Degrees" (video) – 3:15
  • "Teenage Angst" (video) – 2:40
  • "Nancy Boy" (video) – 3:20
  • "Bruise Pristine" (video) – 2:59
  • "Soulmates Never Die Live in Paris Trailer" – 2:03


Country Peak
UK 5 Gold
France 50 Platinum


  • Ed Kenehan – engineering (tracks 1–5, 7–10)
  • Saul Fletcher – sleeve photography
  • Teo Miller – engineering (track 6)
  • Mary Scanlon – sleeve band photo photography
  • Phil Vinall – production and mixing (track 6)
  • Brad Wood – production (tracks 1–5, 7–10)


  1. ^ a b "Q Magazine Lists". Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "The Virgin All-time Album Top 1000 List". Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Girls Gone Punk "Placebo: The Sex and the Drugs and the Complications"". Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  4. ^ Moore (2006), p.274
  5. ^ a b "Exclusive: interview of Robert Schultzberg!". Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Betts (2005), 216
  7. ^ "Magazine article". Placebo interview. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Melody Maker "The Pleasure Principal", Sep'96". Melody Maker. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Independent "Angela Lewis on Pop Music", Jun'96". The Independent. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Sex Punk Placebo-Style". Melody Maker. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  11. ^ "NME "Placebo", 1996". NME. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  12. ^ "Placebo Single of the Week 1996". single of the week. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  13. ^ ", Placebo". The Universal. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  14. ^ "Cover star of Placebo's debut album could sue band for disrupting his life". NME. 23 June 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012. 
  15. ^ "The Sun David Fox sues Placebo". The Sun. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  16. ^ "PLACEBO -- Nancy Boy -- Acoustic Version -- Simon Mayo Session, 29 April 1997". 
  17. ^ a b "UK Charts > Placebo". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  18. ^ "Discogs Placebo Vinyl LP". Discogs. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  19. ^ "Discogs Placebo Vinyl LP". Discogs. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  20. ^ "Discogs Placebo Grey Marble Vinyl LP". Discogs. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  21. ^ "British Phonographic Industry". 
  22. ^ "French Charts > Placebo" (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2010-06-06. 
  23. ^ "BPI Certifications". BPI. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  24. ^ "Snep Musique French Certifications". Snep Musique. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  25. ^ Nitsuh Abebe. "Placebo". Allmusic. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  26. ^ "Allmusic Placebo-Placebo". Allmusic. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 

External links[edit]