Placebo Sleeping With Ghosts

Ridiculously melodramatic and successful in taking goth punk to new commercial heights, Placebo have returned with a fourth album. After a brilliant and authentic debut, which was poorly followed by two less-than-impressive follow-ups, this London-based trio haven’t built on the strength of their early success. Instead, Sleeping With Ghosts is a predictable attempt to reinvent the band as something it’s not. Like their previous shot at becoming hip-hop, Placebo have taken on an electro-punk hybrid, failing where the Faint succeed. Moments like "Something Rotten,” and obvious burgle from Massive Attack, and "I’ll Be Yours,” a chance to cash in on electroclash, feel contrived and feeble. Annoying front-man Brian Molko does throw in some tunes that are quite catchy, such as the single "The Bitter End” and "Special Needs,” but in the end they feel more like guilty pleasures. If it wasn’t for such a stomach-churning ending with the all-too-familiar, disgraceful ballad "Centrefolds,” Sleeping With Ghosts wouldn’t be the sham that it is. Maybe if the singer would drop the painful ego and quit trying so hard, they could try to achieve a worthy "second” album. (Virgin)