One of the best parts of being in your late 20s is that you can pick up all the albums you would have liked when you were a teenager, but couldn't afford, in charity shops for next to nothing. Just to prove the rule, I found Placebo's self titled debut album in Camberwell Scope for £2 (I'm guessing it would have set me back £15-20 if I'd bought it new when it came out).
So, 1996, I would still have been in school and my music collection would probably have just consisted of a few cassettes I never listened to because I'd had then since I was about 7 and the music tastes of a 7 year old and 15 year old differ quite dramatically. I wouldn't have even had a CD player, let alone any CDs at that point. Most of the stuff I would have listened to would have been the dire local radio station, which must have owned all of about 5 records which they cycled through endlessly. Intermingled in amongst ancient cheese they obviously played the stuff that was hitting the charts.
OK, as with any musical era, there was plenty off really bad stuff to make your ears bleed and the radio was plagued by boy/girl bands and dodgy dance covers. However, there was also all the indie rock stuff, the tail end of grunge, a bit of a punk revival and all of this was creeping into the charts too giving a bit of interest and chance for your arm to grow back before the next boy band comes on and you had to chew it off again.
As for "Placebo", musically it's wonderfully simple. I'm sure you could probably count the number of notes they use in each track on one hand and there's not an awful lot happening with the rhythm either. However, the simple tunes together with the grungy distorted guitar sounds come together to create this amazingly melodramatic sound. Molko's vocals are equally dramatic and the pitch of his voice makes a great contrast with the guitars.
I picked up a copy of their second album "Without You I'm Nothing" second hand a few years ago, which generally sounds much the same, but loses a lot of the dramaticism of "Placebo" and so doesn't hang together nearly as well.
Ironically "Nancy Boy", which was the biggest single from the album is probably the least interesting track on the album. The other singles "Bruise Pristine", "Come Home", "36 Degrees" and "Teenage Angst" all have a bit more punch to them.
However, the real stars of the album are "Lady of the Flowers", where all the melodrama on the album gets concentrated into one song, and "I Know" which just goes to show how well guitar and didgeridoo go together.
All the tracks are available to listen to on last.fm, but have a link to "I Know"