‘Loud Like Love’ is Placebo’s seventh full-length effort and manages to deliver some of the eccentric and quirky alternative rock that they can do so well. The new album sees the band pick up from where 2009’s ‘Battle For The Sun’ left off, opting to widen their musical pallet, with different instrumentation and greater variety of lyrical themes.
The album has a false start, with the title track failing to deliver the optimism and joy is tries so hard to create. The song is supposed to explode towards the end with group singing, snare rolls and synths, yet it comes off more like a High School Music parody, conjuring up images of Brian Molko dressed as a cheerleader.
The record really begins with ‘Scene Of The Crime’, bringing back the melancholy from ‘Meds’, with Molko drenching his vocals in his signature whine, proving that Placebo are still at their best when Molko delves into his darker side. The track is very typical of the album, utilising both piano and electronics heavily, with guitar sometimes taking a back seat.
Once you get past the odd rhyme-for-the-sake-of-rhyming lyrics (including the impressive run of gay, away, Champs Elysees, communique, super highway, say, away, day, hay) the album’s first single ‘Too Many Friends’ is a fairly standard, yet catchy track, showcasing the pop-tinged alt rock sound that has spawned so many great songs before it. It’s unfortunate that the next two tracks don’t quite hit the mark.
‘Hold On To Me’ falls flat and confused, sounding like a self-parody, as forty year old Molko wails in false fragility, trying to recapture the past. Worst, is the second half of the song, with a spoken word piece overlaying a bland instrumental, producing cringe worthy lines like “our task is to transform ourselves into multi-dimensional beings”. ‘Rob The Bank’ doesn’t do better, spoiling a good bass line with the bizarre lyrics “rob the bank then pick your nose”, Molko’s guide to global economics and a token refrain of “Make Love” thrown in for good measure.
It’s a relief then that the second half of the album is far superior to the first. ‘A Million Little Pieces’ is a beautiful track, led by piano, actually offering a true piece of Molko: “Whenever I was feeling wrong, I used to go and write a song, from my heart, but now I fear I’ve lost my spark.” Following up is the excellent ‘Exit Wounds’, driven primarily by an industrial beat and featuring Molko’s best vocal performance, offering a fantastic melody and technique, all whilst returning to past (believable) themes of drugs and sex.
‘Purify’ reminds of their debut twenty years ago, with a decent guitar riff and a sense of urgency missing from a lot of their later works. ‘Begin The End’ and ‘Bosco’ end the album on a sombre note, the latter proving to be an excellent track, relying only a sparse musical backdrop to Molko’s voice and a simple piano phrase.
‘Loud Like Love’ is exactly what most fans expected from Placebo and perhaps that’s why the album fails to shine. Apart from a few stand out tracks, the rest feels like Placebo-by-numbers and was entirely predictable. It’s a shame they chose to scrap the rejuvenated route they took on 2012’s brilliant ‘B3’ EP, because if they did, this could have been the album that fans have been waiting for, for nearly ten years now.
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