English Summer Rain by Placebo

English summer rain seems to last for ages
Hold your breath and count to 10
And fall apart and start again
In 1994 a skinny, androgynous Brian Molko headed from Luxembourg to London to study drama at the prestigious Goldsmiths College. A random but fortuitous meeting with former school mate Stefan Olsdal at the South Kensington tube station resulted in the band now known as Placebo, with drummer Steve Hewitt. London was the birth place of the band both famous and notorious in equal measure for their subversive lyrics often dealing with themes of drug addiction and sex, their androgynous appearance and carefree bi-sexuality. But boys wearing make-up with painted nails and long hair were nothing new for the streets of London.

Colorful Soho buildingsColorful Soho buildings
The capital city of England and the United Kingdom, London is considered the largest urban zone in the European Union. Located on the River Thames in southern England, London has a rich history extending back to the Roman Empire, when the city was known as Londinium. Today, London is a cultural melting pot, home to diverse ethnicities and nationalities.

From upmarket venues like Covent Garden and the Royal Albert Hall to the dingy underground clubs and Goth markets of Camden and sex shops of Soho, modern London is a city of many faces. The underground scene in London is thriving, from grime and dubstep to UK garage. Having spawned international super groups in the 60s and 70s, like Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden, The Sex Pistols, and Queen, London provided Placebo a solid musical foundation upon which to grow.

Often described as the Goth Nirvana, Placebo have established themselves as fitting into neither the grunge nor Gothic mould, lying instead somewhere between David Bowie glam and pretty boy pop-rock. Their music is a strange conglomeration of genres, as well, and this is particularly evident on their fourth studio album, Sleeping with Ghosts. "For me, it's about the relationship that you have with your memories. They inhabit your dreams sometimes," says Molko. "I see the album as a collection of short stories about a handful of relationships."

Acoustic discs in the Royal Albert HallAcoustic discs in the Royal Albert Hall
With an average summer rainfall of over 45 inches, London could easily have provided the soggy inspiration for the album's second track, "English Summer Rain." This track sees Molko ditching the guitar in favour of the drums. There is, in fact, no guitar part in this repetitive and flat song that seems somewhat out of place on an album with vitriolic, fist-shaking songs like "The Bitter End," and dreamy lullabies like "Special Needs" and "Centrefolds." Perhaps its ordinariness lends "English Summer Rain" a perverse uniqueness from a band that usually serves up the bizarre and subversive in spades.

Molko's signature nasal voice is laden with effects in this song in which the lyrics seem to spin in circles around the central theme of his relationship with English weather. But perhaps Molko is really just taking the piss with the repeated lyrics, "Always stays the same, nothing ever changes." Or perhaps this is merely a drug-induced meditation on the barometric situation beyond the band room's window.

Love them or hate them, Placebo is one of the most dramatic and original acts to emerge from London in years. And after almost 20 years in the industry, 7 albums, a change in line-up, and a serious drug addiction, Molko is still leading Placebo to the top of the charts with his bruised, nancy-boy stylings and idiosyncratic retro-glam-goth-pop music.

Suzanne van Rooyen
May 22, 2013

Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. Although she has a Master's degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. Her published novels include Dragon's Teeth, Obscura Burning, and The Other Me.


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