ALBUM REVIEW: Placebo – Never Let Me Go
Photo Credit: Mads Perch
Placebo are back. Originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, Brian Molko decided to rewrite three songs due to his want to capture “the feeling of being lost”. Roll on nearly two years later and, after a nine-year hiatus, the beloved alternative rockers have released their eighth LP, Never Let Me Go.
The opening synth (if that’s what you call it) certainly grabs your attention, that’s if Molko’s iconic voice doesn’t. He speaks of memory tales, with some particularly good drumming in the background. Followed by a big synth-based chorus, Forever Chemicals sets the tone for the record.
Lead single Beautiful James follows with a simple synth line that leads the track, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Year 7 music lesson with the keyboards out. That’s not necessarily a dig at the band, but the synth is a tad jarring and lacking in imagination. The track does play it largely safe; you can see why it was a lead single.
“A hug is just another way of hiding your face” is the line Molko repeats throughout Hugz, which interestingly is a slight twist on a Peter Capaldi-era Doctor Who quote. The track shows Molko at his passionate best, with a pretty heavy riff to accompany him during the latter part of the song. It’s a strong track.
Happy Birthday In The Sky‘s ambiguous lyrics build up to a brilliant crescendo. It’s one of the highlights of the LP, as you receive this explosion of sound that makes you want to run as much as it does lie down – not many bands can replicate that feeling.
Placebo then greet you with an unexpected orchestral song named The Prodigal. It’s a lovely track that catches you off guard as you don’t expect the album to go down that route, but after four or so minutes, you’re damn glad it did.
Another song released as a single, Surrounded By Spies, creates a groovy, eerie atmosphere that keeps you on edge for the whole track, almost as if you were surrounded by spies. There are not many songs we can think of that replicate the feelings this track provokes, but it’s certainly worth your attention. It also highlights the quality of the band’s production, as it seems as if every single instrument is being used to its optimum. The next single and song on the LP, Try Better Next Time, has the best chorus on the record, as Molko’s lyrics range from self-deprecation to an optimistic look on life as the song develops, almost like he’s growing up in the track.
Sad White Reggae almost sounds like a Soft Cell song. In a similar way to the opener, it prioritises a very alternative synth and makes it fit into a pretty good rock song. Yet again, in this track and throughout the record, the drumming is on point.
It’s impressive how many sounds Placebo delve into in the album, as some of the guitar tones they get are pretty cool. Twin Demons is a clear example of this, which also leads into a big crescendo, a structure a lot of the songs from this album are following.
As the album nears its finale, a fair description of Chemtrails would be a reflective song which leads Molko to the conclusion that “I’m gonna buy an island and get the fuck out of here”. We’ve all been there.
The piano ballad This Is What You Wanted is typical Placebo. With the deprecating lyrics, it’s a song that arguably should stay as a piano ballad rather than including all the extra production elements it does in the end.
Went Missing is a fairly forgettable track, with jilted synths that give it a psychedelic feel, but it’s hard to really say how well it works, it feels like a worse Surrounded By Spies.
Fix Yourself begins with another instrument you can’t quite pin down, and then develops into an even less clear instrument. It’s a fairly disappointing finish as the lyrics almost feel like you’ve heard them before. “Go fix yourself, instead of someone else” does feel a bit like yet another one of the many slogans you’ve heard in the past 50 or so minutes.
As you can probably gauge from this review, the first two thirds are that of a very strong release, with the last third bringing the album down slightly. Overall, we would definitely say this record is a return to form for a band that have certainly been missed these past nine years.
Standout Tracks: Happy Birthday In The Sky, Surrounded By Spies. The Prodigal
For Fans Of: White Lies, Editors, Manic Street Preachers
Written by: Joe Loughran