Placebo – ‘Loud Like Love’

Brian Molko slips into hammy, doomy self-parody. Again

Nearly two decades on from their debut, Placebo are still peddling the same dark arts that won them fans and foes in equal measure. The fans flapped mothlike to Brian Molko’s tales of debauchery, gender-bending and way with a kinky couplet. The foes rolled their eyes at their rather watery grunge and noted that Molko’s black heart paled to more of a magnolia in comparison to his stadium-level peers (hello, Matt Bellamy). But that hasn’t stopped the albums coming, through line-up and label changes, and ‘Loud Like Love’ is their first since signing a megabucks distribution deal with Universal last year.

Placebo have been plumbing the same vein for so long, they’ve slipped into self-parody and come out the other side with their lipstick all smudged. But even as Placebo albums go, this one stretches the shtick. Where 2009’s ‘Battle For The Sun’ could lay claim to at least two unpretentious bangers (‘Ashtray Heart’ and ‘Kitty Litter’) and steered mercifully away from politics, ‘Loud Like Love’ leans heavily on the title track and then veers into Molko’s GCSE English whining about the state of himself and the world. It’s best on the piano-led ‘Too Many Friends’, a searing critique of social media that rhymes “gay” with “communiqué” and “superhighway“. ‘Hold On To Me’ features hammy strings and some top-notch existential fretting about being cut off from society (like “a phone with no connection“). But ‘Rob The Bank’ is stadium rock by numbers, pairing a doomy bassline with studio-crafted riffs while Molko gives us his two cents’ worth on global economic collapse: “Rob the bank, then pick your nose“.

Slap on some squeaky-clean production and throw in a nonsensical but intriguing video for ‘Too Many Friends’, narrated by Bret Easton Ellis, and you have yourself a Grade-A Placebo album. By now, you could bottle up the formula like powdered milk.

Hazel Sheffield