Love: An Empty Concept
There are a handful of topics that have been pummeled to death in popular (and unpopular) music. You can’t fight it. Everyone has a love story, whether it’s tragic, blissful, exciting or mundane. Sometimes it’s affection, sometimes it’s tenderness and sometimes it’s just plain intercourse. It’s been attributed to the spiritual, the chemical and every possibility in between. But it’s always best when it’s believable.
Placebo has released their latest album Loud Like Love, and even the mere mention of “the L word” by a band like Placebo has one doubting the intentions or sincerity. The title track starts off the album with such a spirited, hopeful tone, but you wonder how someone who put forth 2006’s Meds could even think this way. The band’s message has always been so pained and disconcerted that it’s hard to envision the sudden discovery of something sweet and tender, assuming one interprets things in this direction. The runway of defeat and turning a jaded eye on all aspects of life has been established for too long to assume such a character change. And yet “Loud Like Love” is quite upbeat.
However, as soon as the next track begins, things take a turn to the familiar as singer Brian Molko returns to form with lines like “We almost made it, but making it is overrated,” “I’ve got too many friends, too many people that I’ll never meet and I’ll never be there for” and “I’ve lost the power to understand what it takes to be a man with my heart.” These are the dark clouds that we are used to. This is the Placebo that most know and, well, “love.”
Sonically, things haven’t changed much from 2009’s Battle For The Sun, with an eclectic mix of electro-tinged alternative with one foot firmly planted in the ‘90s. But, it is undeniable how much you believe Molko when he exclaims “All my dreamin’ torn in pieces” and how hard it is to believe that “A smile would blow a summer breeze through my heart.” Even the name “Placebo” has always conjured an emptiness or a lack of effect, entirely appropriate to such somber themes. The final track, “Bosco,” starts with “I love you more than any man,” a touching sentiment indeed, but continues, “But something’s getting in the way / I do you harm because I can / For the second time today.” Perhaps the band should “write what they know” and leave love to those who seem capable of truly experiencing it.