Placebo’s ‘Never Let Me Go’ – the duo’s eight album and first in almost a decade’ finds them trying to make sense of a world that is full of intolerance, division, over-reliance on technology and imminent environmental disaster…
The album opens with ‘Forever Chemicals’ and it’s a distorted yet wonky industrial riff-driven piece with Brian Molko looking back on memories and feelings: ‘My imagination doesn’t know where to go, so it goes to sleep instead’. There’s then some individual calls and responses with a harsher edge – ‘It’s so good when nothing matters, when no one cares’ – over military drumming. The second track is recent single ‘Beautiful James’, a delightfully synth-heavy throwback to the ’80s with Brian pleading for someont to ‘Bring me back to life’ and ‘Never let me go’. There’s genuine anguish in those distinctive vocals as he offers a world-weary view: ‘Everybody lies 100 times a day’.
‘Hugz’ opens in hypnotic, rhythmic fashion with the words ‘A hug is just another way of hiding your face’ are repeated and then a punk-rock attitude takes over – ‘I don’t want to be myself, I just want to redeem myself’ – before ‘Happy Birthday in the Sky’ slows things down with quieter guitar work and the admission that ‘I want my medicine’. ‘The Prodigal’ has an orchestral opening, which is unexpected but not unwelcome, as Brian again brings up the subject of mortality: ‘When I return, Prodigal Son, this world will be as one’. ‘Try Better Next Time’ is full of potent storytelling while ‘Sad White Reggae’ has a dancebeat backing up tales of moving to Scotland and giving into pain.
‘Chemtrails’ seemingly touches on post-Brexit Britain as Brian dreames of escaping and exploring new places – ‘I’m gonna find another island and get the hell out of here’; ‘I want another life’ – while ‘This is What You Wanted’ has a piano-led introduction and a sense of inevitability about what’s to come: ‘It feels like you’ll explode, this what you wanted, this is here and now’. The penultimate ‘Went Missing’ carries on in this calmer vein before the closing, glitch-filled ‘Fix Yourself’ features the record’s defining statement: ‘Go fuck yourself, don’t tell me how to feel’.
‘Never Let Me Go’ is an album that finds Placebo back to their best. We don’t want them to go away for so long next time.