We've got to be honest; in our opinion, there isn't a single mediocre album in Placebo's back catalogue, but that doesn't mean that their third record Black Market Music isn't something truly special. Today they're celebrating 20 years since this epic collection of songs was released on Hut Records, including some of our favourite tracks of all time.

Placebo - Black Market MusicPlacebo - Black Market Music

After the Platinum success of their 1996 self-titled debut album and its 1998 follow-up Without You I'm Nothing, critics and fans alike expected a lot from Black Market Music. Few were disappointed. It reached number six in the UK charts and featured the hit singles Taste in Men, Slave to the Wage, Special K and Black-Eyed; all of which would go on to appear on their legendary compilation album Once More with Feeling. It also included a rare rap venture with Justin Warfield on Spite & Malice, which rather came out of leftfield given the band's distaste with the rap-rock hype at the time. 

They enlisted a new producer, Paul Corkett (Adorable, The Cure, Biffy Clyro), who'd previously worked as an engineer on Without You I'm Nothing, and the album took an unexpectedly long time to be released. With nine months in London's Olympic Studios, Townhouse Studios and Moody Studios, it remains the longest time Placebo have taken to record an album. 

Frontman Brian Molko later reflected that the band's heavy drug usage was likely to have contributed to the length of time it took to record, and admitted that they had gone into the studio with rather a lot of confidence and bravado having had a successful tour and developed a newfound friendship with David Bowie, who ended up re-recording their Without You I'm Nothing single as a duet (which would later feature as a bonus track on the re-sequenced US version of Black Market Music, alongside a cover of Depeche Mode's I Feel You). 

Black Market Music features themes of love and desperation, drugs and addiction, religion and societal expectations as well as mental health. It was dedicated to their music publicist friend Scott Piering, who had died of cancer earlier in the year. They also reference their sound technician Levi Tecofski in the song Commercial for Levi; a man who once saved a drunk Brian Molko from being knocked down by a vehicle. We certainly have a LOT to thank him for.

A lot of musical influences can be heard on the record as well. Taste in Men was majorly inspired by Nine Inch Nails' song Wish, with a bass riff almost identical to Pink Floyd's Let There Be More Light. Meanwhile, Slave to the Wage samples Texas Never Whispers by Pavement, and makes reference to the Bob Dylan song Maggie's Farm.

While the critical reception may not have been as avid as the previous two albums, attitudes towards Black Market Music were still largely positive. It saw them at their most listenable, and the dark sound was a hit with most people, even if the media were resistant to a song named after a drug (Special K). Molko's own feelings on the record changed over the years. At first he described it as a perfect blend of the "rough, punk pop" of their debut album and the "melancholy" vibes on Without You I'm Nothing, but later he expressed regret at not having had enough involvement on the production side and even ranked it as his least favourite album. 

That's nothing unusual though; he'd later express apathy towards Without You I'm Nothing too, an album which we featured in a previous Album of the Week.