Placebo: Never Let Me Go

Placebo are back with an explosion of melancholy and broken dreams.

When Placebo first entered the music scene, they were a novelty with their glam outsider looks trying to leave their mark in a scene dominated by Brit-pop ala Oasis and heavy masculinity. Today, Placebo are just as ambiguous as they were in 1996, and in a time when social media dominates our lives, frontman Brian Molko refuses to even have an Instagram or Twitter, and the band’s social media accounts are usually run by bassist, Stefan Osdal (the running joke being that you can always tell when it’s Molko posting on social media cause he’s like your tech-impaired uncle who texts in CAPS).

The world is very different from when Placebo left it nine years ago with their album Loud Like Love. Even Placebo are very different from when they left us, they’re no longer a three-member band, but they’re down to two members, and at this late in their career, maybe both Molko and Osdal don’t feel like anyone else can truly capture the essence of Placebo quite like they do. Never Let Me Go is a very different album from Loud Like Love. Musically, it has touches of their debut album, reminding me of their early songs like Come Home, Hang On To Your IQ, or Swallow. It also reminds me a lot of their B-Side instrumentals like Hug Bubble or Oxygen Thief.

Beautiful James is classic Placebo both musically and lyrically speaking, and although it’s the easiest song to recall because of the infectious hook, there are many other songs on the album that capture more fraught emotions. Forever Chemicals beautifully captures the uneasiness we’ve all been feeling these past few years. Musically the sounds are distorted and lyrically we have a Molko who’s been stuck in his own head for too long that it verges on the unhealthy.

The Prodigal begins with an enchanting harmony of strings, luring us into hopeful territory until the lyrics quickly remind us of our own mortality and the sadness of learning lessons towards the end, but with the hope of there being a light at the end of the tunnel. Went Missing is presented in spoken verse that almost feels like an intimate confessional of why someone would deliberately remove themselves from society, too disillusioned with it that the protagonist finds himself simply running away.

The majority of the album seeps with a yearning for lost youth but yet, has the wisdom to know that trying to live as you did in your youth probably wouldn’t have allowed you to still be alive. Although both musically and lyrically, Molko isn’t certain if being alive right now during these dire times is actually anything he bargained for, especially in songs like This Is What You Wanted, where he realises that everything he wanted didn’t make him happy, but rather left him feeling frustrated and empty.

Placebo are back, and like the rest of us, have grown disenchanted with modern society, and yet…there’s a twinkle of hope, and that’s what we can all hold on to, to keep on dreaming.

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