Loud Like Love

Written by: TL on 10/10/2013 14:38:21

When I started to really get into rock music some 10 years ago, Placebo were a band apart. Combining frontman Brian Molko's flamboyant, androgynous character with a sharp-edged alterna-rock that sounded a bit like a lot of bands, while not really sounding like any in particular, the trio were perennially odd men out in the Britrock landscape, dropping album upon album that made them a fixpoint of fascination for awkward and frustrated adolescents everywhere. Honestly though, the three year gap after "Meds" was long enough to start wondering if the band was running out of steam, and though Placebo eventually returned with a new drummer in Steve Forrest and a surprisingly solid record in 2009's "Battle For The Sun", the subsequent fade from media attention meant that it once again felt a little out of the blue when new album "Loud Like Love" blipped on the radar upon its release a few weeks ago.

As the title track opens up proceedings, the first impression is that we're still in safe hands, because the song reaches for your attention already from the first instant its chiming riff and driving beat embrace each other, and when electronic effects surge to lift the song towards the end, it's one among a handful of flashes in which the album shows what a band of Placebo's experience can routinely pull off. The interplay between moody piano and distorted guitar is as on point as ever, as Placebo continue to take a style that's mostly comparable to Muse in their own darker and more grounded direction. The electronic touches especially highlight the release, as mentioned in "Loud Like Love", but also towards the end of the slow-burning "Exit Wounds" and in the chorus of the threatening "Purify".

Unfortunately for Placebo, there's a considerable risk that will have many feeling too disappointed before the latter two tracks come off the tracklist, because Molko's traditionally seductive lyricism seems all out of sorts on "Loud Like Love". The title track itself is the kind of vague arena-rock anthem which reaches for catchyness at the cost of comprehensiveness, and the outlaw motifs of songs like "Exit Wounds", "Scene Of The Crime" and "Rob The Bank" all feel contrived when compared to the band's formerly edgy themes of self-medication and romantic deviancy. "Hold On To Me" starts better then, with Molko getting existential about having reached adulthood, but the spoken word philosophising that stretches the track from three to five minutes just feels unnecessary and pretentious, and moreover, while it might be possible to criticise the internet and social media without sounding like a relic, Molko definitely does not manage it in "Too Many Friends", which burdens an otherwise infectious composition with multiple cringe-worthy phrases even before the end of the first chorus.

The gist of it is that strictly musically speaking, "Loud Like Love" would actually be a rock solid record, showcasing the veteran grasp of style and composition that Molko and fellow founding member Stefan Olsdal continue to refine, but it falls short because flatly, its content feels anything but inspired. Brian Molko has appeared like an ageless idol for the outsiders for almost twenty years, but here it feels like he's torn between helplessly conjuring up shades of past ideas, or soaking in banal and complacent considerations that feel uncharacteristic for him. The saddest part of it is that even though the final two of them are perhaps too long for their own good, the four closing tracks "Exit Wounds", "Purify", "Begin The End" and "Bosco" actually showcase hints of the edge that has previously made good Placebo records, but when listening to the album as a whole, it's somehow the uneven first half that inevitably makes the strongest impression. So ultimately, here's to hoping that this is just a fluke.

Download: Loud Like Love, Exit Wounds, Begin The End, Bosco
For The Fans Of: Muse, Suede, Silversun Pickups, Jimmy Eat World ("Futures"-era)

Release Date 16.09.2013

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