Placebo – Never Let Me Go
Released: March 25, 2022
Brian Molko // vocals/guitar/bass/keyboards/harmonica/percussion/saxophone
Stefan Olsdal // bass/guitar/keyboards
Oh Placebo, where have you been? It’s been 9 years since your last album, 2013’s Loud Like Love. That’s a long time inbetween records. Some people have forgotten about you. But not I. I have plenty of Placebo songs still in my playlist. I’ve always listened out for your new stuff. Your last album was pretty good. Your second album, Without You, I’m Nothing was pretty stellar.
I first heard Placebo back in 1996 when their single ‘Nancy Boy’ was being played in Triple J. I found myself singing along to it. I loved it. “Out of luck / out of lube” I sang. For a straight white guy, they were pushing boundaries, as bands like Placebo and Jane’s Addiction were doing in the 90s. They were no guilty pleasure here. I really dug them. And when I first saw Brian Molko in the video for ‘Pure Morning‘ I could see that he was pushing a look that crossed gender boundaries. They straddled the edge, the line between straight and gay, man and woman. They were continuing the tradition that David Bowie and Lou Reed set. Hell, David Bowie loved them and recorded a couple of songs with them.
But most of all, they rocked.
Their new album, Never Let Me Go takes off as if it hasn’t been nine years. Yet, a lot has happened since then and there is an urgency to this album. Brian Molko’s obsessions have always been about love and confusion, but here he also throws his fears about the state of the world in here.
There’s a sadness, an anger, and maybe a tinge of hope in these tracks. Placebo have been releasing songs from this album for the last few months, the most recent being ‘Happy Birthday in the Sky’, a song that is both beautiful and desperate. Something Placebo do very well. And its quiet/loud/quiet dynamics are superb.
The opening track, ‘Forever Chemicals’ sets the tone with discordant guitars mixed with a great harmony, looking at the band’s obsessions with love and the possible end of the world.
Some tracks truly stand out here: ‘Hugz’ with its lyric of “A hug is just another way of hiding your face…A joke is just another way of telling the truth”; ‘Surrounded by Spies’ is an urgent track with the title repeated over and over; ‘Try Better Next Time’ is a call to the citizens of Planet Earth that we should’ve/could’ve done better.
‘Sad White Reggae’ is not a reggae song, but an angry song about abandonment and keeping the anger going, ‘Chemtrails’ is Placebo rocking out at their best.
The last three songs on the record, ‘This is What You Wanted’, ‘Went Missing’ and ‘Fix Yourself’ end the album on a melancholy note, belying a lot of the angry rock that preceded them. A quiet desperation to each song.
I really like this album. I’ve listened to it twice now, and I believe that it’s an early candidate for album of the year. But most importantly, it made me really love Placebo all over again. I’ve been listening back through their songs consistently since having heard Never Let Me Go. They are a terrific band and I would love to see them live as these new songs would work brilliantly on stage.
I hope it’s not another nine years between records. They clearly have so much to give.
Placebo – Never Let Me Go tracklisting:
1. Forever Chemicals
2. Beautiful James
4. Happy Birthday in the Sky
5. The Prodigal
6. Surrounded By Spies
7. Try Better Next Time
8. Sad White Reggae
9. Twin Demons
11. This is What You Wanted
12. Went Missing
13. Fix Yourself