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Here are two British bands that I adore. If you son’t at least give these a try, you are ridiculous.

Placebo- Once More With Feeling
Greatest-hits packages or career retrospectives usually occur around the ten-year mark for most bands. After ten years together, eight of those spent on the U.K. charts, Placebo exhume their past with Once More With Feeling: Singles 1996-2004. This 19-song collection includes all of their biggest hits, most notably “Nancy Boy” and “Pure Morning.” It’s also a look back on Placebo’s conscious effort to maintain a campy, glam rock-influenced rock sound. Placebo achieved great success in their native U.K. (and at a college radio level in the U.S.) at the height of both grunge in the mid-’90s and the teen pop/emo excursions just as the new millennium got underway. As much as frontman Brian Molko’s sexuality was called into question and the band’s exterior appearance was a topic of conversation among the U.K. music press, Molko’s androgynous appeal was equally intriguing as his gender-bending presence as a singer, so style and substance worked in favor of Placebo’s place in music. Was he the pop generation’s new David Bowie? No, but he yearned to attract fans much like Bowie did during the 1970s. Molko’s pixie-like peculiarity only added to Placebo’s star power, so naturally the timing of Once More With Feeling is a nice fit in the Placebo discography. It’s arrangement is out of order; however, all the singles released from their 1996 self-titled debut to the fierce neo-glam statement that is 2003’s Sleeping With Ghosts sound as great as they ever did. What’s nice is how the select tracks from Black Market Music — “Taste in Men,” “Special K,” “Slave to the Wage” — age better simply because Placebo has aged well. The direction of Sleeping With Ghosts does the same, holding promise for what’s yet to come from Placebo; just check out “The Bitter End.” For a fan who’s already bought every Placebo single, Once More With Feeling is only necessary for collecting purposes. For those who didn’t, this singles collection is a great place to start.

Muse- Absolution
Though some may still consider them Radiohead mimics, obviously Muse continue to strike a nerve with their alternative hard rock audience, here releasing their third album of heavy guitars, haunted harmonics, and paranoid musings in Absolution. Frontman Matt Bellamy and company stick to the same disturbed, and sometimes disturbing, formula that’s worked in the past: the emotional intensity and style of Radiohead, a rock thunder descended from Black Sabbath, and the baroque drama of Queen. Longtime producer John Leckie sits this one out, and in steps indie uber-engineer Rich Costey. With Costey manning the desk, the music feels more polished and slick, but less epic and raw. Longtime fans won’t miss a beat though, because Bellamy delivers the same Thom Yorke vocal impersonation for which he’s known, and continues the same anthemic posturing he’s lifted from Freddie Mercury. With song titles and subject matter fueled by fear of the apocalypse, and worries about infidelities and random murders, the subject matter is as gloriously pretentious and lovably unlovable as ever. Newcomers to the band should expect killer guitars reminiscent of jackhammers and chainsaws, bloodcurdling choruses, and, of course, tender passages of falsetto. A recurring motif of racing samplers suggests nothing less than a rock opera version of the score to Koyaanisqatsi, and then there are the occasional spooky moments where funky rhythms mingle with heavy metal guitars, suggesting a progressive Italian zombie flick soundtrack. There’s little point in selecting highlights, because other than some slow moments that feel tacked on, there’s not much variation in theme or mood. Many listeners will probably prefer to tackle the album in small doses, and only the most headstrong won’t require a breather. Muse continue to make unrelenting hardcore art rock; Absolution is a tad cheesy, a bit too grandiose in its ambitions, bursting at the seams with too many ideas, and thus exactly what any Muse fan craves.

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