Without You I'm Nothing (Placebo album)

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Without You I'm Nothing
Studio album by Placebo
Released 12 October 1998 (1998-10-12)
Recorded Mid–late 1998 at Real World in Bath; Livingston in London
Genre Alternative rock
Length 65:48
Label Hut
Producer Steve Osborne and Phil Vinall
Placebo chronology
Without You I'm Nothing
Black Market Music
Singles from Without You I'm Nothing
  1. "Pure Morning"
    Released: 3 August 1998
  2. "You Don't Care About Us"
    Released: 28 September 1998
  3. "Every You Every Me"
    Released: 25 January 1999
  4. "Without You I'm Nothing"
    Released: 16 August 1999
  5. "Burger Queen"
    Released: 22 November 1999

Without You I'm Nothing is the second studio album by alternative rock band Placebo, released on 12 October 1998 through Hut and Virgin Records. A thirteen-month tour accompanied the album; during this tour Stefan Olsdal fell off the stage and broke his arm, whilst on the same evening Brian Molko slept in the same position for ten hours, waking up with a compressed vertebrae in his neck and with no feeling in his head.[1]

It was another success like the band's 1996 self-titled debut, Placebo, and peaked at number seven in the UK Albums Chart and at number 20 on the US Billboard Heatseekers Albums chart. Without You I'm Nothing went platinum in the UK and gold in France and has sold over one million copies to date. The album has also spawned five singles including very notable songs for the band "Pure Morning" and "You Don't Care About Us".

Without You I'm Nothing had high critical acclaim upon its release. NME described it as "a thrilling record, then, made by freaks, for freaks. Just don't expect to leave with your soul intact"[2] and AllMusic's review stated that "with massive success already underway back home in England, Without You I'm Nothing deserves to break through everywhere else."


Placebo released their debut album Placebo in 1996 and was a massive success going gold in the UK. The same year they began writing new material for the album. Still on Hut Records, the band signed to major label Virgin Records in 1997 and began recording the album. In 1998 the band released the single "Pure Morning" in August and is a notable song for the band, especially in the US. It went at number 4 in the UK Singles Chart.[3] Later on that year they released another single "You Don't Care About Us" in September which went at number five in the charts in which both appeared on the album.[3] The album was released 12 October 1998.

The recording sessions were difficult for the band, not the least because Placebo chose Phil Vinall to replace Steve Osborne as producer at the last minute to produce "Pure Morning". Later on, Placebo's frontman Brian Molko stated that, despite appreciating Osborne's producing skills, the chemistry between band and producer "didnt spark the way we wanted it to spark", also adding that the album was "overproduced" and contained "too many slow songs for a second album". That said, he did not disown the album, adding that it is still an album the band is proud of.[4]


The album was recorded over three months in 1998 at Real World Studios in Wiltshire, twelve songs were originally recorded in the sessions for the album which was the album today excluding "Pure Morning" and including another track called "Kitsch Object", but it was never included on the album as they were never satisfied with it so they usually just played it live around that time.[5] The guitar were recorded in a "U shaped" control room, the band said that whoever wrote the part for the guitar played guitar, Molko noted that "It's not that we’re territorial – anything but – it's just an idea that the best person to follow an idea through is the person who had it".[6][7] The vocals are considerably more lower in tone, Molko said he was tired of having a high pitched "squeaky" voice, they were recorded in a control room at Real World Studios and the drums were recorded in a kitchen.

The album was produced by Steve Osborne because they wanted a producer who was involved with dance music as well as rock music and they didn't have many options at the time.[8] At the last minute the band switched producers and got Phil Vinall to produce Pure Morning which was recorded also at the last minute originally as a B-side in May after the album was completed, but they liked the song very much and put it on the album.[9]


Musical structure[edit]

The album's music was written by the whole band and made a departure from the band's indie-glam sound of their debut. It focused on a more mellow and emotional sound on many songs on the album. The album open's with "Pure Morning" which is a more simple song compared to the other tracks. It originally started out as a guitar loop but developed into the song it is today.[10] The sound on the album seems to have more Sonic Youth styled guitar and tuning.

Lyrics and themes[edit]

The people who inspired it are a couple of friends of mine, you know it's kind of like a celebration of a friendship with women. It's also a song about coming down, ending the day, as everybody else's day is sort of starting and feeling dislocated from the world really and kind of like yearning for a friend to put their arms around you to make the come down easier.

Brian Molko, 1998

The songs on Without You I'm Nothing were written around the time Placebo came out, in 1996. The album appears to be more personal than their debut and reflect on Molko's past. The album's opening song "Pure Morning" was written off the top of Molko's head.[11] It was written about celebration of friendship hence the repetition of the line A friend in need's a friend indeed.[12] "Brick Shithouse"'s title comes an old English phrase meaning that if somebody is built like a brick shithouse they have a lot of muscle but aren't very clever.[10] In an interview, Molko said that the song is "a ghost story, about somebody watching their lover make love to the person who killed them."[13]

Many of the lyrics on the album seem to deal with romance, songs such as "You Don't Care About Us" which was written about your ex-lover telling you you are terrible at relationships.[14] The title of the album Without You I'm Nothing did not necessarily have anything to do with the song, the original title of the album was meant to be called Placebo 2 as they could not think of anything else. The title was loosely inspired by a film with the same name by Sandra Bernhard.[15] The song "Allergic (To Thoughts of Mother Earth) was written about his view on the environment, and Christians who do not care about the environment because "to them their rewards will always be in heaven and not on this earth".[14]

Brian Molko has said that "My Sweet Prince" was important to him, according to him there was a big tragedy while they were demoing the tracks for the album and this song had to "come out", he noted that it was about two romances, one with drugs and one with a person but they both ended very tragically.[14] There are many references to heroin such as "Me and the dragon, Can chase all the pain away" and "Close up the hole in my vein". "Scared of Girls" is about being vulnerable and being ashamed of who you are.[16]

The last two songs, "Burger Queen" which was written about a homosexual, drug-addicted goth in Luxembourg, and "Evil Dildo" were written during at a soundcheck at Leipzig on their first German tour in October in 1996[9] and were two of the first songs to be written for the album. The title for "Burger Queen" is a play on Burger King and Luxembourg. The voices heard during the hidden track "Evil Dildo" are actual death threats left on Molko's answerphone, he said it was happening at a "scary time" as well, so they taped them on that song.[17]


The album cover features two women sitting in front of each other, looking down on the table. The light coming in from the curtains makes a yellow colour on the cover of the album. The back cover shows a couch in front of some red curtains and shows the track listing and all of the information instead of putting it in the booklet.[18] Two different coloured CD's were made, some black and some red.


On 12 October 1998 the band released Without You I'm Nothing and the album debuted at number 7 in the UK and French albums chart and at number 20 in the USA Heatseekers chart and it later it got certified platinum on 15 August 2003[19] and it has sold over one million copies to date. Although it didn't do as well as their previous album but it still did very well also going platinum in Australia and Europe and Gold in France.[20][21][22] The album was released on CD, Cassette and Vinyl, the vinyl version of the album is considerably hard to get and can be over £100 in cost.[23][24]

Five singles were released from the album and three of them released after the album in 1999 in which videos for all of them were released except for "Burger Queen". The video for "Without You I'm Nothing" features a live performance with David Bowie which was included on the single release and the video for "Every You Every Me" features clips from the Cruel Intentions movie as well as another version of them playing the song live at London's Brixton Academy.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[25]
NME 8/10[26]
Pitchfork 5.1/10[27]
PopMatters 7/10[28]
Robert Christgau (neither)[29]

Without You I'm Nothing received critical acclaim. NME said it was "A thrilling record, then, made by freaks, for freaks. Just don't expect to leave with your soul intact" giving it 8/10 and AllMusic said "With massive success already underway back home in England, Without You I'm Nothing deserves to break through everywhere else", the BBC said "Placebo's ability to produce a record that was as powerful and accessible as their debut, yet at the same time refreshingly different incorporating a more relaxed sound as opposed to the angst of their debut. Thats not to say that "Without You I'm Nothing" is a mellow folk record! Far from it! The raw anger and energy from their debut is still retained in this follow up, only this time it's set to a more realised and dare i say "commercial" sound" noting that "Without You I'm Nothing is a joy to listen to from start to finish and deserves to be in the collection of anyone who claims to like REAL music!".

Despite the well received reviews Pitchfork insultingly said "Sure, Moonboy Molko is a lousy songwriter; but his campy lyrical melodrama hits home with paste- eating geeks and plenty of hard- up, acne- ridden adolescents. And of course, cornering the market on teen- oriented sexual frustration is important to the power- hungry, monopolistic- minded Branson regime at Virgin. In this case, with Placebo's frigid nebbish- rock product, Virgin Records finally lives up to its name-- providing entertainment ideally suited for the young, cynical, insecure, and sexually- ambiguous male virgin".

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Brian Molko except where noted, all music composed by Placebo except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. "Pure Morning"   4:14
2. "Brick Shithouse"   3:18
3. "You Don't Care About Us"   3:58
4. "Ask for Answers"   5:19
5. "Without You I'm Nothing"   4:08
6. "Allergic (To Thoughts of Mother Earth)"   3:49
7. "The Crawl"   2:59
8. "Every You Every Me" (Molko, Paul Campion) 3:33
9. "My Sweet Prince"   5:45
10. "Summer's Gone"   3:05
11. "Scared of Girls"   3:01
12. "Burger Queen" ("Burger Queen" ends at 6:14, hidden track "Evil Dildo" starts at 14:45) 22:39
Total length:
Japanese edition bonus track
No. Title Length
13. "20th Century Boy" (lyrics and music by Marc Bolan; T. Rex cover)  


  • Adrian Bushby – engineering (tracks 2–12)
  • Paul Corkett – additional engineering
  • Jake Davies – mixing assistant
  • Phelan Kane – programming (track 1)
  • Teo Miller – engineering (track 1)
  • Steve Osborne – production (tracks 2–12)
  • Bunt Stafford-Clark – mastering (at Townhouse Studios, London)
  • Phil Vinall – production (track 1)
  • Corrine Day – sleeve photography
  • Placebo – sleeve design
  • Blue Source – sleeve design

Chart performance[edit]

Country Peak
UK 7 Platinum (300,000 units)
Australia 14 Platinum (70,000 units)
Austria 43
France 7 2× Gold (200,000)
Germany 55
Switzerland 95
USA (Heatseekers)[30] 20
Year Single Peak positions
1998 "Pure Morning" 49 84 21 4 19
"You Don't Care About Us" 5
1999 "Every You Every Me" 46 11
"Without You I'm Nothing" 79
"Burger Queen Français" 78
"—" denotes releases that did not chart.


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  2. ^ "NME Album Reviews – Without You I'm Nothing". Nme.Com. 9 November 1998. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  3. ^ a b http://everyhit.com/searchsec.php
  4. ^ "Interview with Brian Molko of Placebo". NY Rock. April 2001. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  5. ^ "Antidote "Thц╘rapie de groupe", Sep'98 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". Placeborussia.ru. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  6. ^ "Guitar Magazine "Sonic Youths", Oct'98 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". Placeborussia.ru. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  7. ^ http://img-fotki.yandex.ru/get/5701/curel.ce/0_3dfe1_fb8c2a56_orig.jpg
  8. ^ "Elocution So Divine". Elocutionsodivine.tumblr.com. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  9. ^ a b "Silver Rocket 1998Б─■2000 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". Placeborussia.ru. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
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  11. ^ "Elocution So Divine". Elocutionsodivine.tumblr.com. 14 August 1997. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  12. ^ "Placebo – Interview MTV Alarm 1998". YouTube. 1 February 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  13. ^ "Brick Shithouse lyrics and explanation". Traduction set paroles. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c "Interview "Placebo in Conversation With Sally Stratton", Aug'98 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". Placeborussia.ru. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  15. ^ "Gay Times "The Rise and Rise of Brian Molko...", Dec'98 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". Placeborussia.ru. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  16. ^ "NME "No More Charlie Angels", Aug'98 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". Placeborussia.ru. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  17. ^ "Melody Maker "Ready, Steady, Spook", Oct'98 – LJ Placebo Russia Archive". Placeborussia.ru. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  18. ^ "Images for Placebo – Without You I'm Nothing". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  19. ^ "Certified Awards". Bpi.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  20. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2000 Albums". Aria.com.au. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  21. ^ "IFPI Platinum Europe Awards – 2003". Ifpi.org. 1 September 2005. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  22. ^ "Snepmusique.com, le site du Snep". Snepmusique.com. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  23. ^ "Discogs". Discogs. Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  24. ^ http://www.discogs.com/sell/list?release_id=1552291&ev=rb
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  26. ^ "Without You I'm Nothing". NME.COM. 9 November 1998. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  27. ^ Sandlin, Michael. "Placebo: Without You I'm Nothing". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 17 June 2002. Retrieved 27 October 2011. 
  28. ^ Sarah Zupko. "Placebo, Without You I'm Nothing". PopMatters. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  29. ^ Robert Christgau. "Placebo". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  30. ^ "Without You I'm Nothing". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  31. ^ "Placebo singles chart positions in Australia". Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  32. ^ "Placebo singles chart positions in France". Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  33. ^ "Placebo singles chart positions in Germany". Retrieved 2009-05-31. 
  34. ^ "Placebo singles chart positions in the Netherlands". Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  35. ^ "Placebo singles chart positions in New Zealand". Retrieved 2013-04-16. 
  36. ^ "Placebo single chart positions in the US". Retrieved 2013-04-26. 

External links[edit]