People make me think things. Brian Molko makes me think really filthy things, which I am willing to admit in public mainly because he's pretty plain about being okay with this. He clearly understands this state of mind, as he has a reputation for entertaining himself on tour by sleeping around. On the other hand, I am an adult, and I understand that sometimes we think things that do not need to be immediately ejected into the open air; he appears to get that too, as I have never heard him comment on-mic on the attractiveness, or lack thereof, of any other human being. I assume he's not shy about sharing this information with specific people in whom he is interested, or he wouldn't get laid nearly so much, but discretion about the details is generally a good thing.

He also makes me think things that are probably equally dangerous to be dreaming about on the train.

Writers are a lazy species, in that we all understand it is much easier to write about things that are already circling in our heads. That's not to say that we never try to write from an outside viewpoint; sometimes, that kind of wondering is the thought that won't leave you alone until you chase down all the implications. But for the most part, we just grab for whatever's handy in the front of our brains and thwack it down on a piece of paper, and save all the effort for making it coherent.

Molko has all but admitted that this is what he does for song lyrics. The details are whatever fits the meter and makes the song sound right, but they're intended to convey whatever real feeling he's trying to write about. It is a specific effort he's making, and he prides himself on being able to be more and more honest in his fictions over time. This makes them terribly interesting, from a profiling standpoint. And also a colossal minefield.

Generally, what writers turn out is a mix of what they really think, what they'd like to think, and what they're afraid of -- novels and other long texts are in some ways one big metagame of "two truths and a lie", which makes guessing about the authors both fun and hazardous. People who are trying to be honest, I tend to handle with more reverence. It's less uncomfortable to explicitly try to follow their train of thought, because that's what they want you to do, but wrong guesses feel a lot more personal and dangerous, and a lot less easily brushed off as a product of the reader's deranged imagination.

Placebo lyrics are almost but not quite standard alternative rock. They contain a lot of ten dollar words, because Molko knows a lot of ten dollar words, and pissed off a lot of media outlets because Molko refused to stop talking about homoeroticism and drugs. (Nobody seemed to care about all the religious stuff, even though a lot of it has been subverted into descriptions of sex. Go figure.) There is a lot of, "I want you," and "I want you to want me", plus "I want you to stay," "I want you to come back," and occasionally, "I want you to fuck off and die in a fire, because that was an awful breakup." The first couple of albums have a lot of, "You don't get me and aren't even trying," and "Stop being a fuckwicket at me just because I'm strange,"

Molko seems to have been angry and frustrated because he was alienated, not the other way around. Once he fell in with an established community of weirdos, he calmed down remarkably fucking quick. Not that he quit doing drugs and attractive groupies -- everyone needs hobbies -- just that he stopped being so bitter. He still has quite a bit of bite, but a lot of Loud Like Love is remarkably light and happy.

One theme notable for its absence is jealousy. Either it does not strike him much, or he doesn't think it's very interesting to write about. When it does come up, it's almost exclusively in the context of having already been left for someone else. There's a fair amount of 'be mine/I'm yours' but not a lot of 'one and only'. I can't recall any mention of finding out someone is two-timing, or demanding that they choose 'me or him' (or lamenting 'I can't make the decision,' for that matter). "Second Sight" is specifically about realizing a relationship is a bad idea before it's even started because the other person is the jealous type, with the implication that the singer knows he's going to snap that tripwire sooner or later. "I Do" mentions its absence -- the singer is secure in the knowledge that she's not going to leave him, and so doesn't care about flirting.

The thing about playing these kinds of guessing games about someone else's brain, is that the easiest patterns to pick up on are the ones you're familiar with. That goes double with a pattern that applies to you specifically. The pitfall here is that humans are badly pareidolic, and sometimes spot familiar patterns in data that are essentially random, or which really fit some other graph entirely. You cannot ever reverse engineer something with 100% certainty. Whatever observation you make about someone else, there are a minimum of two ways that might have come about, usually more like a dozen, at least one of which is a wildcard that has never crossed your mind. It makes those pop-psych books about reading body language somewhere between useless and dangerous. For every five things they tell you, three-ish will be accurate about any given person, you have no way of knowing a priori which three those are, and your subject will find a wrong assumption about at least one of those things deeply insulting.

I've made a lot of guesses about Brian Molko, and a great many of them are based on me going, 'well, I know what that would imply if I said it.' While this is usually a decent place to start, it is not always a good place to end; you have to be willing to revise your guesses whenever you find something that doesn't fit. In this case, using myself as a reference seems to produce something that hangs together with internal logic. I don't know if it's right, but I can at least elaborate on the model.

Most people consider family their bedrock. They are given a home as a birthright. If you moved around a lot as a kid (if Molko considers himself to be 'from' anywhere, it seems to be Luxembourg; otherwise, when asked where he grew up, he rattles off a list of places that sound more like a travel agency brochure than a childhood), then home might not be a particular place, but a group of people. It is the Ur-example of permanence, a place which will always exist, and to which you can return if your life falls apart.

Molko does not seem to have home, or at least didn't until he fucked off and made one for himself. Even if you hate each other, there is a tremendous amount of social pressure, bearing down like the weight of the entire ocean, preventing your family from abandoning you. It applies to no other class of relationships in our culture. Regardless of whether you broke away from your family or they exiled you, not having that sure (if potentially terrible) thing makes you acutely aware that anyone in your life could leave you at any time, for any reason.

How you deal with this has a lot to do with inborn temperament.

If you are a jealous person, it can make you very needy. If you let it, the drive to make sure that any reason never happens can consume you. Any bit of attention your important people pay to anyone or anything else can be a sign that any reason is coming up, and the only way to prevent that is to make sure all their attention is focused on you at all times. It makes you anxious and possessive, on a hair trigger, ready to be angry at their betrayal and terrified at the idea of being alone. At its worst it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as people realize you're trying to isolate them, and flee captivity.

If you are not a jealous person, it's easier to get fatalistic about it. Any reason could be literally any reason at all, and there is nothing you can do about this. People will leave, full stop. It's still not a nice prospect, but realizing that the leaving is the only thing that really scares you also makes you realize that lots of other things aren't particularly upsetting when the leaving part doesn't happen. Not seeing the point in being angry when they pay attention to other stuff can be a problem of its own. Jealousy is an instinct, and trying to manufacture it if the instinct is not native to you is incredibly difficult. The default state of humanity seems to be a little bit jealous, and people expect it; a lot of the time, they shout "you don't care!" at you when they really mean "I am operating under the assumption that you are possessive about things you value, and since you are not upset I am concluding that you do not value me". You can cope by trying to find value in connections that are meant to be temporary, but that confuses people who think that value will automatically prompt you to fight tooth and nail to keep it forever.

Complicating this is that, when your family-bedrock is full of holes or just not there at all, you have to figure out how to create a stable foundation out of other things. Relationship categories become fluid. Lovers become friends, friends become family, actual family becomes so radioactive they are best observed from outside a 50km exclusion zone. It's possible to make it work, but it looks complicated and chaotic and probably intensely hurtful to people who cannot figure out how to put themselves in your shoes.

Molko seems to be viewed as kind of a solitary cat, but given the things he writes about, I really do not think he is. There are likely a great many people in his life who are important to him, just not in a stereotypical way. The reason the mother of his son is the only "ex-partner" the media can identify is probably not that she's the only person he's ever gotten that attached to, but that that relationship was the only one both public enough and close enough to cultural standard for them to pick up on.


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    1. People like you puzzle me. The internet is very big. Why you would read all the way through an article just to tell me you don't like it and think I'm horrible -- and then delete it so no one else can read it -- I have no idea.

  2. Interesting thoughts on attachment, as usual. Probably right about Molko, I get similar vibes from him.


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