Brian Molko is still the patron saint of acne-mottled boys the world over. He gets on in years, but his fan base stays in the same twelve- to sixteen-year-old demographic. He’s still singing about failing algebra tests when the object of his affections gets A’s. On Meds, the music is rawer but darker. But the lyrics are still the same trite, angst-ridden, snippy couplets. This is the man who rhymed “what a gas, what a beautiful ass,” you know?
And so the album is a total conundrum. The music is fantastic but the lyrics are terrible. Even the guest appearances by Allison Mosshart (a.k.a. VV) of the Kills (“Meds”) and Michael Stipe (“Broken Promise”) don’t help out with the credibility. I know, we’re not supposed to pay attention to the words; we’re supposed to just rock out. But the vocals are high in the mix, and Molko’s thin, reedy, omnipresent voice is hard to ignore, especially because he enunciates so clearly.
His lyrics are the sung equivalent of Associated Press stories: get in, say clearly what you have to say and get out. Nuances? Teasing out the story? Nope. We as listeners don’t have to work very hard. And apparently neither does he. The stock phrases he uses are at everyone’s disposal: “You’re the monkey on my back,” and “You’re always ahead of the game; I drag behind” (“Drag”); “It’s in the water baby” and “Bite the hand that feeds” (“Post Blue”). He also refers to himself to his lover as a “funny valentine” (“Blind”) and says “this house is no longer a home” after a love departs (“Because I Want You”). And there’s my favorite: “It’s in the special way we fuck” (“Post Blue”). These clever lines are only the tip of the iceberg (ahem).
If you are able to ignore the lyrics, you’ll be rewarded: the choruses on Meds are catchy. “Infra-Red” is a total stomper, and it’s chorus is going to be huge live. But the problem with the lyrics is resilient. Wishing somebody an unhappy birthday is Morrissey’s trick, and a beggar’s banquet is, of course, the Rolling Stones and a record label. The incessant drums and bass are this track’s saving grace.
Some tracks do tackle timely subjects. “Song to Say Goodbye” is about standing by helpless as a friend makes terrible lifestyle choices, and “Meds” is a testament to the prevalent Prozac culture. The paranoia and dependence on chemicals throughout our culture is a worthy focus; it’s just a shame Molko can’t articulate these fears without resorting to uninventive language.
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