After seven studio albums of angst-ridden power-pop, Placebo’s contribution to the long-standing MTV Unplugged series is well overdue. This Unplugged episode offers a refreshing new perspective for Placebo fans, but will do little to excite anyone else.
One highlight is the drastically changed ‘Every You Every Me’. The slowed down melancholic adaptation of this track displays stark contrast to the overdriven original version from 1998’s Without You I’m Nothing. This stripped back rendition also features Danish singer-songwriter Majke Voss Romme, who contributes to a haunting dynamic throughout the track.
Piano parts hold a crucial place throughout this stripped-back live album. The piano-driven solemn rendition of ‘Hold On To Me’ best exemplifies this. Frontman Brian Molko powerfully accentuates the vocal lines throughout this version.
The album also features an unexpected live resurrection of ’36 Degrees’, originally from Placebo’s 1996 self-titled debut. The orchestral textures fit naturally over the acoustic dynamics of the main band.
Despite the positives, there are many disappointing areas within this live album. Brian Molko’s whining vocal texture often fails to compliment the softer, acoustic soundscape of the main band. This problem is exposed during the addition of the featured guest vocalists, as they sound more suited to the stripped-back setting than the Placebo frontman.
Another disappointment is the inclusion of the over-covered Pixies classic ‘Where Is My Mind?’ This live rendition offers little to the album, and Placebo’s interpretation is predictably uncreative.
A further criticism is that Placebo have distanced themselves from some older fan favourites, such as ‘Nancy Boy’ and ‘Teenage Angst’. The band seem to avoid the challenge of taking these punkier hits to an acoustic setting.
Overall, Placebo’s MTV Unplugged performance is a pretty dismal addition to their discography and not representative of their hugely successful twenty-year studio career.