Meds is the fifth studio album by English alternative rock band Placebo. It was recorded from late 2005 to early 2006 and released on 13 March 2006 by record label Virgin in most countries, although it was released three days earlier in Australia and New Zealand. Illegal copies had previously been available on the Internet since 17 January 2006.
Placebo had planned to record a more electronic, keyboard-driven sound for their new album; however, producer Dimitri Tikovoi suggested a back-to-basics approach, which Brian Molko recounted in Zero:
It was our producer's agenda really, which we didn't really know about until we got into the studio. [...] We were in a place that was very much about samplers and computers and vintage synthesisers. This recording session really became about playing again. We were in an old-school studio so there were no real tricks to hide behind.
On the theme of the record, Molko says:
I think there's a lot of songs about the dangers and effects of drinking [alcohol]. [...] "Infra-Red"'s about that, when you get very drunk and you've got a bee in your bonnet about something, and this vengeful quality emerges. You start thinking about people who've done you wrong and [want] to set the record straight.
Speaking to Kerrang! in June 2009, Brian Molko remembered: "This was the beginning of the end of the band [drummer Steve Hewitt left after its release] and the way we dealt with that was by anaesthetizing ourselves to the max. When Stef and I hear tracks from the album we look at each other and go, 'Erm… who played what on this song?' There are moments on there like "[In the] Cold Light of Morning," that are painful to listen to now. I don't know that we've ever been that down before. I think it's a very powerful record, emotionally, and despite the circumstances under which it was made, it's quite perfectly executed. It's just very dark and doesn't offer very much hope."
Meds was released 13 March 2006 worldwide, although it was released three days earlier in Australia and New Zealand. Illegal copies had previously been available on the Internet since 17 January 2006.
The album was re-released by Virgin in the United States in January 2007 with three extra tracks—"Lazarus", "UNEEDMEMORETHANINEEDU" (both B-sides to the "Meds" single) and "Running Up That Hill"—and "In the Cold Light of Morning" omitted (because it contains "dirty words"). The album was released with the Copy Control protection system in some regions. The Chilean two-disc edition includes a bonus disc of live tracks recorded at the Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho, Santiago on 1 and 2 April 2005, entitled Live in Chile.
The US release version has different arrangements of various tracks e.g. it omits the glockenspeil during Pierrot the Clown giving a much more bare-bones version of the song.
Meds received a generally favourable reception from critics, though several reviewers commented on the album's lack of divergence from the group's established sound.
Pitchfork reviewer Joe Tangari opined "the arrangements and recordings are so airtight you could suffocate in them, with the distortion strictly compressed and neatly controlled". Tangari finished by commenting "Meds isn't a terrible album, but there's very little to get excited about on it either, and Placebo's calculated naughtiness is no more convincing than it's ever been." Jonathan Keefe of Slant wrote "Meds finds a successful band doing just a little to tinker with their proven formula [...] and attempting to pass off a few too many soundalike tracks as thematic coherence". Dan Raper of PopMatters wrote "Meds is cloaked in the sophisticated sheen of a band completely established; pushing in some areas, content to rely on established constructions and melodic elements in others. If you haven't experienced the familiar cycle of infatuation–disappointment–indifference with Placebo, you could find these songs pleasant, at times even exhilarating. But I've just reached the final stage of that cycle, and nothing here forces me to reconsider."
MacKenzie Wilson of AllMusic called Meds "as bare and honest as Placebo have ever been, thanks to French producer Dimitri Tikovoi's straightforward approach in getting the band to make a bona fide rock record", writing that "There's a fresh vulnerability here and a sense of danger, too".Robert Christgau, while mixed in his reception, called Meds "easily their most effective album-as-album", while Q magazine called it "easily their most focused album to date".musicOMH wrote "Darker than its predecessors, the harrowing Meds is as close Placebo have come to that perfect album."