Yes, it’s time for one of my album reviews, one where I go through every song and say what other songs by that artist I think it sounds like, because that’s what I want when I read music reviews, not a load of bluff and bluster and showing off.
So let’s begin. I love the new Placebo album! Not a surprise, you may think, but I was expecting to be disappointed for some reason. I think because Placebo just became this huge obsession and then we kind of cooled on it, I was expecting the decline to go further, but instead I could be just about to reignite my crush. Plus I’m going to see them in December which will be the first gig I’ve been to since Desaparecidos – woo.
Loud Like Love is the title track of the album and is just lovely, jangly guitars, atmosphere, ‘love on an atom, love on a cloud’ but what it’s all building too is the chorus chant of ‘breathe, breathe, breathe, believe’, which is a mantra I can get behind. It’s Placebo at their best, energetic, positive, singalong and catchy. You can’t go wrong unless you’re a total sourpuss.
Scene of the Crime begins with moody handclaps. The song has got a grimy feel to it, and hangs on the hook of the lyric ‘we almost made it, but making it is overrated’ which has a nice ring to it. There’s also a good crunchy dance bit in it (almost wub wubs, but not quite) that reminds me of the English Summer Rain days, and then there’s some Pierrot the Clown style piano. The end is quite theatrical with him just yelping ‘scene of the crime’ which is quite enjoyable. All in all, it feels very much like a Placebo track. Which is what you want, right?
Too Many Friends was the first song I heard from the album and I love it. The lyrics are absolutely ludicrous – ‘My computer thinks I’m gay, I threw that piece of junk away on the Champs-Élysées’ – but isn’t that what we want from Brian (except in Special Needs)? If you can get over the hump of the first verse (and the word ‘communiqué’) it’s actually an excellent song. I love the way it builds up and the chorus is great. Brian Molko moaning about people on their iPhones, you’ve got to love it. The climax of the song is ‘all that people do all day is stare into a phone’. I think he means ‘stare into their phones’ but it’s not the last bit of English he fucks up on this album. I love the ‘I’ll never be there’ lyric at the end, and can happily imagine him singing this live.
The next song is called Hold onto Me. Unfortunately there’s a Courtney Love song called this that’s better – a trap Placebo have fallen into before with their Devil in the Details (Bright Eyes got their first). This is the first partly dreary song on the album. It’s perfectly acceptable, but that’s not what I want from a pop song. I want to be stirred! Instead, it feels a little plodding and whiney. The piece de resistance is some muttering talking part, most of which I can’t make out, but he seems to be talking about some David Icke type shit about ‘the fourth and fifth dimensions’ and ‘this is the bridge to an entirely different energy level’. Ok, then.
Next up is Rob the Bank, which is like a more palatable Trigger Happy (cringe). The lyrics hit a new low here, including ‘rob the bank and pick your nose’ which had my boyfriend howling with laughter. It’s not a bad song, sort of Placebo by numbers, I think, but it is a silly one. There’s a bit of xylophone on it later which is nice for Bloc Party fans.
A Million Little Pieces – no, not just the excellent book that really pissed off Oprah Winfrey – but now a middling song on a Placebo album. Brian sings: ‘No more glowing in the dark for my heart’ – probably for the best; sounds like a health condition. It’s not a bad song, but I feel it’s got delusions of grandeur; songs about leaving town always do, like someone having an internet strop and threatening to quit Twitter. I do however like the end piano bit where it goes ‘All my dreaming torn in pieces’ – this album has definitely mastered the art of a strong ending for each of the songs.
Exit Wounds has a drum beat that really reminds me of cool-videoed dance song by The Notwist – ‘Pick up the Phone’. This reminds me of the previous song in that it’s quite dark and moody – has Brian had his heart broken recently? This has a chorus that’s telling you it’s epic, but it’s not quite getting me. There’s also some really stinking lyrics here: ‘If I could I would hover as he’s making love to you, making rain as I cry.’ Dearie me. Why doesn’t anyone tell him? Come on Stefan, grow some balls. I do like the different parts to this song, it’s got a weird sound in the middle, and again a strong ending: ‘put me in the ground’, which is reminiscent of one of the best songs of all time; I Know It’s over by The Smiths. If I Know it’s Over is 10, then Exit Wounds is 878,985. But still.
I suspect Purify will be the next single, it just has that single-y feel to it, it kind of reminds me of For What It’s Worth off the last album. I do like it, but it’s like Breathe Underwater or something; it’s just there and energetic, but not grabbing me emotionally.
Begin the end namechecks heroin, and includes the words ‘misconstrue’ and ‘misapprehend’. It kind of reminds me of A Million Little Pieces in that it’s quite moody. I like the line ‘I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried, but there’s nothing you can do to change my mind’ because let’s face it, who’s not been there? My editorial side gets a little antsy after that, as there’s a line that goes, ‘And I don’t enjoy to watch you crumble, and I don’t enjoy to watch you cry.’ Surely he means ‘watching you crumble’? It’s like ‘someone tried to do me ache’ all over again. Brian; why do you do this to me? Apart from that bugging me every time listen to it, it’s a decent song.
Bosco is the final song on the album, and really one of the best songs, almost the best song, in a way, after Loud Like Love. It’s an anti-ballad, and it had me crying in my car this morning (I was hungover though, and also cried at an advert on the side of a bus). The use of the word ‘happenstance’ is to be appreciated, even though you suspect it’s just to rhyme with ‘circumstance’ that comes next. He also shoehorns in the words ‘partisan’ and ‘belicose’, the second of which I had to look up. What is this, a Will Self book? Incidentally it mean ‘demonstrating aggression and willingness to fight’ which is probably a word I need to know (ahem). But the killer is the ending, just him repeating ‘how I suck you dry’ and it sounding like the saddest thing in the world. It’s another Placebo song with lofty ambitions, but this time it hits them. I want to say mesmerising but that sounds wanky, so I’ll say it’s something like mesmerising.
Finally, if you get the deluxe version of the CD, you get a DVD of some studio recordings of the tracks, which was very enjoyable to watch. Brian has Nancy Boy-era hair and looks very attractive (how does he stay so skinny?) and they seem to have sealed the drummer off in a plastic booth. I do think 10 tracks on an album is a bit tight; 12 even seems low, but at least the quality is good and there’s little filler. The song on the DVD that isn’t on the album is called Pity Party (of one). You can probably tell from the title that’s not going to be a winner. It’s like a less charming In the Cold Light of the Morning, so quite glad that didn’t make it onto the album. On the whole though, pleasantly surprised with the album and looking forward to seeing them in December, especially as the fans are all quite short so you normally get a good view. Win/win!