Whimsical endeavors of non-concealment
On March 25, 2022, British indie alt-rockers Placebo came out of hibernation to grace the charts with their unapologetically controversial and timely new album. Never Let Me Go is Placebo’s eighth studio album and acts as a call to stop seeing things through rose-colored lenses and start seeing things for what they are. It is an enjoyable listen as the album is framed in a way that takes the listener on a journey through the backdoor of undiscovered sounds, awakenings and ideas. With chill and reverence, Placebo has crafted an album that demands attention.
The first track “Forever Chemicals” is somewhat ambiguous and holds a whimsical, futuristic aura. The lyrics leave a wide gap for interpretation, but hint at an internal struggle against the mind, trying to decide if it is a friend or foe. This track gives a good analysis of self-reflection and the cares and pains it endures when attempting to hold true to a firm mindset.
Next is “Beautiful James,” a perfect mix of synthesizers and electronic music, where lead singer and guitarist Brian Molko serenades the listener with his distinct nasally voice. The story of “Beautiful James” acts more as symbolism and an expression of appreciation as it reflects on what it’s like to have someone who has helped you get through a rough patch in life, regardless of distance or time.
“Hugz” starts with an urgent and aggressive guitar riff even though the lyrics of this song focus on ways of hiding. It discusses hiding through a hug or a joke, but always concealing and never fully showing oneself. Molko focuses on the difficulty of being fully unsheathed with an unblinking stare to both the inner eyes of oneself as well as the eyes of others. In this song, the message speaks loudly through the intensity of the drums, basslines and incessant guitar riffs.
“Happy Birthday in The Sky” takes on a darker, melodic tone. At a certain point, Molko even croons, “I want my medicine.” It is beautiful yet painfully raw, all in the same song, creating an ache that is uncomfortable to feel but so inspiring that it leaves pressing skip out of the question. The vulnerability in this track is not just heard, but felt, and the sheer amount of that vulnerability creates a shock factor.
“The Prodigal” starts with a regal, upbeat sound similar to a violin. It is an anthem with a creed to live fully, making it known that it’s okay to make a mess or two, but to never let that sparkle of mischief dim. It is a powerful message to move with a pure heart, live with two feet firmly planted on the ground, but keep the heart soaring above the clouds.
“Surrounded By Spies” is another darker track that hints at deeper undertones while attempting a search for meaning. One lyric states, “ex-drummer’s nose stuck in the past” which could be an indication of something more personal. A sly countdown to stage references leads into the line, “We go to Sweden in the back of a cab and every picture house is empty,” a lyric that feeds into spontaneity and throws perfection out the window. This song edges outside of the album’s comfort zone, giving it a streak of rebellion.
Another track of notability is “Twin Demons” as this song has many creative innuendos that are digestible to the listener. It contains comparisons of being bitten by a scorpion and being smothered by pythons, all while comparing to having a “monkey mind” and concealing a heavier meaning. This makes for a fun listen with an enthusiastic sound and eye-opening comparisons that displays the depth and creativity of Placebo.
Placebo’s Never Let Me Go manages to combine whimsy, melancholy, excitement and anticipation all in one album. It also implements the use of synths and electronic music while still sticking to the traditional alternative rock sound from their earlier work. The twists and turns on Never Let Me Go gives the impression of taking each listener on an exciting ride…blindfolded. The overall sound keeps the listener entertained and invested throughout the entire album.