It’s been a long time since Placebo released an album that felt anywhere near as intense as their early work. 17 years ago, they rocked up out of London an aesthetically alarming bunch that could have easily been mistaken for a warning against malnourishment and addiction to narcotics as opposed to an alternative rock band. In keeping with such an ‘outsiders for outsiders’ image, Placebo’s early work was doused in controversial themes, equipped with a injecting, candid delivery and hallucinogenic soundscapes that channeled a swath of troubles too long to list. Divisions aside, there was no doubting the power of the tracks; the sincerity and inflection was not to everyone’s taste, but for those who allowed it to penetrate any given steely façade, it hit extremely hard. It’s sad to see that in recent years, the band’s work has lacked that intensity and veracity, and unfortunately for those who live in hope that Placebo can once again recreate those exorbitantly epidemic trips, Loud Like Love is another in thecatalogue that lacks any sort of potency, and ambles along as nothing more than a distinctly mediocre alternative rock record.
First and foremost with Loud Like Love, the themes explored lack any hint of depth or conviction. In the case of earlier Placebo records, a listener felt like Brian Molko’s most secret diary, and an exclusive outlet to his reverie. Whilst the trademark piercing, marmite vocals are still there in all of their glory, and the contaminated ensembles are still punctuated by hairpin mood swings, the substance is no deeper than a paddling pool. It’s almost as if Molko has Googled the most talked about subjects of 2013, and wrote songs intrinsic to the results. For example, throughout Loud Like Love, memoirs that are anything but groundbreaking are delivered relating to moot points such as social media, and in the case of Rob The Bank, the global economy, where the frontman shows off his geographical knowledge to boot. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Placebo album without a recurring umbrella of sexuality, and rest assured the motif is present as standard. The overall impression, though, is that the record has been manufactured under the single pretext of making a record. In a nutshell, it’s forced and fabricated, and has none of the intensity of their best work, and is a full-frontal plunge into the self-derision that Placebo first embarked upon with 2006’s Meds.
Where other bands that have stood the test of time have evolved, or maintained a fresh, refined sound, Brian Molko and his latest line up seem to still be trying to tap into a spring that ran dry some time around the turn of the century. Whilst the album’s title track is easy enough to listen to, and tracks such as Hold On To Me and Begin The End are emergents amongst a buffet of formulaic conventionality, there is simply too much about Loud Like Love that is lacklustre. Lyrically it’s weak, and the over-polished studio buffing does nothing to emancipate the blueprint that is, essentially, the same as it was 17 years ago. The only difference is that this time, Molko seems to have run out of scandalous subjects to open up for discussion. Instead, he’s more preoccupied with European GDPs and social media, and the result is a lazy exhibition of songwriting. At least this may be an indication he’s finally off the narcotics… 32% is generous.