Placebo Meds

Much to many people’s ignorance, Placebo have been consistently selling millions of records worldwide over their 12-year career, and yet haven’t made a blip on the radar here in North America since 1998’s Without You I’m Nothing. Though none of their albums have matched the excellence of their self-titled 1996 debut, the strange thing about Placebo is they have it in them to make great music, but are often sidetracked by inapt ideas that ruin what they do best: dramatic guitar-led rock. Unfortunately, Meds doesn’t quite interrupt this tradition; however, they dodged a big bullet when producer Dimitri Tikovoi convinced them not to pursue their fascination with electronic music. The result is not quite a return to their first album like they’d hoped for, but nonetheless their best album in a decade. The hasty title track opens with the Kills’ VV adding some vocals on the chorus, which makes a nice contrast to Brian Molko’s nasally whine. Michael Stipe also drops by on "Broken Promise,” a song that opens like a sinister R.E.M. piano ballad, only to explode into more stimulating Placebo guitar fury. "Drag” and "Because I Want You” provide good, melodic singles for the album that revel in some much-appreciated optimism — something this band needs more of. Of course, "Space Monkey” is a preposterous throwaway track, which proves they still can’t shake that bad temptation to dabble with grim melodrama and electronics, but when they’ve got a sublime ballad like "Follow the Cops Back Home” following it up, you can easily forgive them for one little misstep. A welcome return to form that only took one decade. (EMI)