04 February 2009

"England's Trance" by Placebo

You went down like a dream
But I caught it all in colour.
This is an obscure one. And it's certainly not the Placebo you know. Instead it's the husband and wife (I assume) team of Gary and Michelle Wild, from somewhere in darkest England. Apparently in 1982 they found their way to the small village of Pity Me (I kid you not) near Durham and laid down nine tracks at Guardian Studios. And what tracks!

Placebo is so totally obscure that there's no info on the net. Their records are so rare no-one has blogged them. So who would expect something so freaking good?

Certainly I didn't. Back in the early eighties I bought the album 90% on the basis of the fantastic cover, and 10% on the basis of the incredible title. In those days a good title could sell me on a band, and a cool photo like the one provided by Brian Griffin would certainly urge me towards the till. I am sure the obscure song titles sealed the deal.

But that band photo? Ugh. One might expect something sub-Cure or sub-Banshees inside, but I am happy to say neither is true. Michelle's high-pitched vocals recall perhaps early Moev (and we'll get to them in a future post) but thankfully she's no Siouxsie wannabe.

So what do these nine tracks sound like?

Well, any time a song has one guitar track in each channel picking away in syncopated arpeggios, someone has to say the magic word "Television". Yet this record sounds nothing like anything Tom Verlaine has ever touched. There's a bit of I'm So Hollow in the sporadic synth burblings. Once or twice I think of Faction, the equally obscure Liverpool project. But Placebo is very much in a league of its own, with flanged electric guitars stitching an intricate web of sound through which Michelle Wild's voice moves with delicate precision. At its best, as with the single, "Poppy Dance," or the thrilling rocker, "Paying Hommage," this is post punk of the highest order, more than deserving of the double CD re-release with accompanying booklet and hagiographic liner notes that lesser bands have earned.

If anything lets the album down, it's the production. With Steve Severin at the helm this might have gained a layer of psychedelic excess. With Mike Hedges maybe a stripped-down monochromaticism. And with Martin Hannett a dubbed out industrial edge. As it is, it mostly sounds like a demo, but at least it's a demo with some nice pulsing bass (Brian Dixson), work-a-day drumming (Stephen Robson) and great guitar interplay between Gary Wild and George Handleigh. By the time you get to the closing track "Pseudo Silhouette" you'd be forgiven for once again turning to Television as a reference point. It's one of those songs that's long but still not nearly long enough. And laced with strange lines that echo the band's name: "He didn't know about vitamins / administered by a hypodermic syringe."

At some point I bought the single, perhaps hoping for different versions, but these did not materialise. Incredibly, the album was re-issued on CD in 1998 by See for Miles. But that is out of print and more difficult to find than the vinyl.

Prepare yourself now, post-punk fans. Once you hear "Poppy Dance" there's no going back!

If this is the placebo, I'd rather not have the real drug.

-- Second Chameleon


England's Trance
01 Poppy Dance (3:43)
02 Comrade (4:10)
03 Velvet Claws (4:31)
04 Gita (4:12)
05 Blot (3:54)
06 Fabian Policy (3:38)
07 Punishing Pierrot (4:06)
08 Paying Homage (3:52)
09 Pseudo Silhouette (8:12)
UK LP Aura Records [AUL 721] 1982
UK LP WEA / Aura Records [AURA 58488] 1982
UK CD See for Miles [SEECD 488] 1998

"Poppy Dance"
01 Poppy Dance
02 Punishing Pierrot
UK 7" Aura Records [AUS 133] 1982

For completeness, here's what the CD looked like. They changed the typography and made a big deal about it not being "that" Placebo.


  1. Thanks! any appeal to Television or Verlaine functions for me as an irresistible lure...

  2. Thank you so much for posting this wonderfull record.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! I have been a proud owner of this vinyl LP since 1982, never knew it was out on CD though. Did you know Placebo made a second LP? It was named "Shells". If you have that one, I would be eternally in your debt if you could post it here.

  4. hey, I just heard "Playing Homage'' on my IPOD. I don't think this is all that rare. WHFS in DC used to play these songs. Another fine pick and no mistake this time. Thanks

  5. Hey, that's great! Thank you for posting this Album. I own the songs, a long time now, but until I read this article I didn't know what's the bands name. Thank you so much!!!

  6. Peter, I had Shells and... I don't remember anything about it except it had a horrible cover. Maybe it had slightly more of an Eno influence? Anyway, I don't think it was as good as the first record.

    The reason I bought England's Dreaming was because someone went crazy reviewing it for NME. There were references to The Byrds, which I guess I can see now I'm old and wise. Also, I used to live just down the road from the roundabout on the cover. It was just on the South side of the Wandsworth Bridge. Of course, it got all modernized in the 1980's... mutter mutter.

    Michelle Wild has such a fine voice. If only she could have skipped in a time machine to the 1990's, things would have been easier for these two I think.

  7. Hey, Atall, we've got Shells posted elsewhere on the site, crap cover and all. Check it out!

  8. How many times can I use the word "obscure" in an article? Too many times, that's how many.

  9. Very nice post !
    Do you have any intention to dig out some "obscure" Mark Hollis or early Talk-Talk (ie: the BBC sessions or some John Peel) ?

    Keep on with the good job ... a journey out of the common pathes...

  10. Another 7" from the album is AUS 131: Paying homage/Gita. I vaguely remember there was even a third one.

  11. I've had the vinyl for many years, bought from, of all places, my local library, where it had been a loan item and was then withdrawn for sale. Thanks for the posting and info, at least I now know a bit more about the band.

  12. Wonderful album from a band that never got the recognition they deserved - they could have been as big as the Cocteaus but never got the breaks - they were certainly easily as good. I can also hear traces of early Kate Bush in the vocals. Thank you for posting.

  13. this is beautiful, just playing the shit on the radio.

  14. so happy to get this one back after so many years!



  15. Thank You! thank you!
    At last I have this album! And whith images!
    Ema (ARG) (Sorry my bad Inglish, but i am happy)

  16. You are not alone. I have the original vinyl and the cd released with 'original' added to the group's name to ward off any unsuspecting regular Placebo fans. A great record!

  17. It got four or five stars in 'Q' and I bought it based on the review, which wasn't such a stupid thing back then. It is an awesome album and ought to be better known - unlike all the crap great lost albums you hear about this really is a great lost album. Shells is good but not so good, even so I do still play it. It's really, really good to know other people do as well.

    Of course, there is that other great lost LP - Feeding the Flame, Sad Lovers and giants!

  18. i listen this incredible music since 2 month and i love it !, they have any chance to find more title ? or better, albums ? maybe in an other group name ? thx if you have info and sorry for my english.

  19. this album is so wonderful :O Is crazy and beautiful thank's for the informations it's true in internet there are no info.

  20. There is a third album John Peel had it so did Kid Jenson they loved these people

  21. These people were on TV only once in 1982 BBC North East the colour programme they were on the orange one if my memory serves me correctly and she was absolutely gorgeous......where can I find this to worship her again?

  22. The second album cover was showing the world via it's protein intake and the track England's Trance was written a day after john lennon was shot....... flowers died etc a very underated band sadly missed.

  23. George Handleigh was in Flesh, which had Andrew Mckenzie of the Hafler Trio in it. Steve Robson was the drummer in Punishment of Luxury.

  24. Hi, any chance of re-upping the file please ;-)

  25. where can i find the third album.????

  26. does some one has the lyrics ...'cause they impossible to find out

  27. Always had a soft spot for this LP and I bought it mainly because of the interesting cover. Great post.