DVD Review: Placebo, We Come In Pieces

I live in a very musical home, populated with lots of instruments and lots of albums and lots of sound. Where music tastes are concerned, my husband and I have a broad area of overlap (because otherwise we couldn't stay married, der: Music is a deal-breaker) but we come from pretty different musical backgrounds and approaches. I put Placebo's We Come In Pieces into the DVD player as he was getting ready for work one morning and about halfway into the first verse of "Nancy Boy," the man was shaking his moneymaker.

His moneymaker does a lot of things, but it isn't prone to freely and easily shimmying. I perked up and paid closer attention to the television. Something was happening.

Let me just say up front: I typically hate concert videos. I'm irrationally annoyed by them and I cannot precisely convey why. Which, you know, is awkward since I'm a writer and using my words typically buys some groceries around this joint.

By the second track on this disc, I was sadly wishing I was at this show. Or any Placebo show, really. By the third track—and this sounds crazy to even me—I'd forgotten that I wasn't. I was so taken with it that it was easy to fall into the band's performance and lose myself exactly as if I were seeing them live.

Maybe that's part of the reason I typically don't like video performances: You aren't sold, not the way that you are when there are a press of bodies around you and sound echoing off of everything; you don't get the distinct privilege of letting your whole life go and enjoying the music wholesale and minus distraction. Usually when I'm seeing a band perform on film there are a dozen other things in my brain clamoring for purchase. Not so with We Come In Pieces, which documents Placebo's Brixton Academy show in September of 2010. I plugged in before I realized I was doing so and I was rapt until the second to last song in the set, when it occurred to me with a startle that I'd not moved since the second song, "Ashtray Heart."

I am ignorant of sound editing and post-processing where concert video is concerned, so I don't know how deft a touch is required to make a show's audio translate well to film; I remark on this because I'm extremely impressed by bands that sound as good or better live as they do on an album. Placebo sounds absolutely incredible from opening to closing note in this video. Their performance is high-energy, incisive and sweeps from grandiose to brutal and back again.

High points and personal favorites for me:
  • "Battle For The Sun" -- I wouldn't have counted this among my favorite Placebo songs until I saw them perform it. Color me sold.
  • "For What It's Worth" -- This happens to be my very favorite song by this band, and I was thrilled at the humorous, tongue-in-cheek insertion of old school 8bit graphics (by way of the stage's backing screen) into its balls-to-the-wall performance.
  • "Special Needs" -- Breaks my heart every time I hear it, but there is something about seeing the band perform it that makes it feel even more poignant.
  • "Teenage Angst" -- The marching, soaring triumph of the music juxtaposed with the hopeless lyrics just nails the sixteen-year-old experience.
  • ....apropos and humorous that they follow it with a solid cover (ohhh, I am a cover snob, let me tell you) of Nirvana's "All Apologies."
As a bonus, you get six tracks filmed at different shows around the world. Of note there are "Bright Lights," "Trigger Happy Hands," and "For What It's Worth." "Bright Lights" is open, arching, hopeful and was filmed at the Zurich Openair Festival in 2010. The bonus rendition of "For What It's Worth" (Japan, 2009) has a different energy than the Brixton performance and is captured in a dreamy black and white. "Trigger Happy Hands" from Belgium's 2010 Pukkelpop Festival is vicious delight, from lead singer Molko stalking the stage as the song opens to the violins and vocals razoring in and dancing around one another... and if you're a fan of the word 'fuck' (I am!), this one's for you. There's a parental advisory on the case, but the repeated dropping of the effbomb during a "Trigger Happy Hands" chant is as blue as the action gets.

Overall the look of the video is clean, slick and light on effects. It's a couple hours of good music that are just plain worth your money and time.

Placebo's We Come In Pieces is available now.

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