Placebo are a band that don’t really need to try anymore. Having peaked within the golden age of CD sales and gaining a feral, devoted fan base (particularly in Eastern Europe) the band can continue to trudge along the globe earning an admirable living and not need such folly like inspiration get in the way of them writing albums which sell enough to be viable.
With seventh album Loud Like Love it sounds as though the group have cottoned on to this theory and are doing their damn finest job of putting in as little effort as possible. Gone are attempts of vocal hooks; on tracks such as ‘Rob the Bank’ and the eponymous ‘Loud Like Love’ these are replaced by blind repetition, the band seemingly thinking that catchiness can be found by simply bludgeoning the same line over and over to the point of mental numbing. This may not be so intolerable if it wasn’t for the turgid, cliché-ridden lyricism; poor Brian Molko “carries the world upon his shoulders” on ‘Hold On to Me’, sadly it’s not a world which includes any self-awareness. This is followed by a worryingly embarrassing spoken-word piece accompanied by a string section; like Serge Gainsbourg for the clinically moronic.
However this is only a minor error when compared to the wholly objectionable ‘Too Many Friends’. The opening line of “my computer thinks I’m gay” would appear far more at home in a song from Avenue Q than that of an overly earnest and misguided rock band. Molko’s confused addressing of the ramifications of social media wants desperately to sound current, but alas in the end it feels about as modern as Slade going Jungle.
There are some small musical ideas which may capture attention, such as the guitar glitching of ‘Scene of the Crime’ and the fierce Future of the Left-reminiscent bass playing on ‘Rob the Bank’, although soon enough these nuggets are absorbed by bloated and incomprehensively standard pleading-for-arena rock. Underwritten. Underperformed. Underwhelming. What makes this all the more depressing is that you can still sense this is work they are proud of; it’s most definitely phoned-in, but not to the degree of which they are ashamed of it. This is meant to impress, and that is what makes the listening experience all the more saddening.
‘A Million Little Pieces’ does offer a modicum of promise, being one of few tracks that is not only consistent but also enjoyable; settling in to a very comfortable Songs of Faith and Devotion-era Depeche Mode vibe, Molko even goes so far as to lay on a notable Gahan-esque tone to his voice. Unlike almost everything else apparent on Loud Like Love this song is executed with finesse; the arrangement is calculated and intricate, which although should work in Placebo’s favour only serves to pull greater focus on the lack of quality present everywhere else. There is just so much wrong with this album in general that any positive aspect is like a section unto itself, bearing no relevance towards the final product. It’s strange how an album cover can be of such the antithesis of the content. A picture of colours exploding everywhere with an uncontrollable energy, representing an overall big brown, lumpen, shitty mess.
In a way it feels difficult criticising this album, although on the other hand it’s really fucking easy. Loud Like Love is sort of like the kid at the back of science class who has worked tirelessly on their project, with their resolute endeavour amounting to a test tube sticking out of a potato. You know it’s shit, everyone aside from him knows it’s shit, but if you told him the truth you fear that it would destabilise his fragile sensibility. So you just give him a gold star and never bring it up again. In fact that may be of use here; well done Placebo. You tried, I mean, you really did well here. I’m sure there’ll be space for it on the display, yeah, definitely. No, not yet of course.
Released 16/9/13 on Universal