Melancholy, vitriol and something close to lyrical genius have always been the three touchstones of Placebo which, since their astonishing self-titled debut in 1996, have always separated them from the swathes of generic alt-rockers that flooded that decade. As they entered the noughties, the band managed to carve out a niche for themselves with their unique brand of drugs-and-depression rock and, though evolution has been clear in each subsequent album, they have wisely never strayed too far from their tried and tested formula. However, with the release of their newest album Loud Like
Love, something terrible has happened, Placebo have cheered up.
If one was willing to look past the god-awful album artwork and the nonsensical album name and endure the actual music, one could perhaps manage to salvage a few passable tracks from the slagheap of cheesy piano riffs, unnecessary textures and insipid lyrics that engulf the majority of the music. ‘Scene of the Crime’ eschews said features for a more solid and slightly heavier rock sound, and the enjoyably caustic lyrics of ‘Rob The Bank’ are driven by a much more uncluttered, visceral sound. ‘Begin The End’ is by far the strongest track on the album, as a glower-ballad that relentlessly builds up to a catharthis that never arrives. These are not bad songs by any means, but are most definitely back-catalogue fodder. Not even the best tracks on Loud Like Love come anywhere near close to songs ‘Pure Morning’ or ‘Song to Say Goodbye’.
Bizarrely, the most tragic tracks (and not the good kind of tragic) on the album are the lead singles. ‘Loud Like Love’ is so upbeat it comes off as infinitely laboured, and the lyrics that begin ‘Too Many Friends’ (My computer thinks I’m gay/I threw that piece of junk away/On the Champs Élysées) are so ridiculous they almost seem like self-parody. None of the other songs are really worth a mention as they all seem near indistinguishable from another and generally come across as either insincere or hopelessly over-embellished. All in all, while Loud Like Love may showcase a new, happier and more hopeful Placebo, it unfortunately leaves the fans feeling quite the opposite.