Placebo (UK)
Never Let Me Go


4.3
superb

Review

by Simon K. STAFF
March 27th, 2022 | 110 replies


Release Date: 03/25/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Where are my meds?

When I first listened to Never Let Me Go I had committed the cardinal sin of listening to it through a crappy Bluetooth speaker while I did other things. The impression I got from it was quite different from the overall appreciation I have for it now. What that Bluetooth speaker gave me was a meagre portion of the album’s full potential. The band’s driving alt-rock instrumentation was there, and so were Molko’s lugubrious vocals, but the problem was that it was laced with this really awkward sounding synth – glittering itself over the tracks, while Molko’s, at times, repetitive lyrics bolstered the damaged further. To tell you the truth, I was so shocked and disappointed by Never Let Me Go, I felt compelled to go back to it a second time, rather than write it off as being complete garbage, because I couldn’t believe Placebo were capable of such poor writing. As it turns out, Never Let Me Go isn’t the kind of alt-rock album you can just have on in the background; instead, it’s an album that requires your undivided attention, and the more time you give it and absorb yourself in its world, the more you benefit from its incredible writing. Sure, the album does retain some of the iffy lyric writing I picked up on the first time around, but the overall experience is far from gimmicky or one-dimensional. To my surprise, it’s a record filled with rich detail and depth.

So shamefully off the mark were my initial thoughts; Never Let Me Go went from being one of the worst albums of their career, to being the best album since Meds. It’s an ambitious, epic journey filled with sadness, exuberance and purpose. For the first time in decades, Placebo actually sound like they have something to say – they want your attention. The album feels like you’re in a state of hypnagogia – that slim window between consciousness and sleep. The genius of this comes from, ironically, the synth itself and how it’s handled within Placebo’s MO. For instance, next to the assertive rhythm section in “Forever Chemicals”, the whirling synth effect being used is the main attraction of the track, but if you hone in on what the synth is actually doing you’ll unearth a trove of other effect and counter-melody hues surrounding the outer layer of its initial allure. It’s this approach that brings more complexity to the table, and offers a lot more than what it would have you believing on the surface. What’s more is the celestial disposition of the record is only one piece of the puzzle: the production is nigh flawless and allows the spacey layers of synth to meld with the powering rock and lush orchestral elements. This synergy develops a world that would have you questioning whether you’re dreaming or awake if you lived in it, and fits in nicely with the existentialism that’s baked into the record.

The bottom line here is that the album is multifaceted and has a lot going for it. Never Let Me Go does an incredible job of handling the band’s bread and butter sound with the other aforementioned ideas, and creates a very engaging environment as a result. One of the album’s main charms is its reverence for 90’s alt-rock; if you close your eyes during the mid-section of “Hugz”, with Molko’s vocal swag and the attitude that comes from the track’s austere guitar riff, it actually feels like you’re in that time period. It’s kind of ironic that this is the best album Placebo have made since Meds, since it definitely echoes that album’s aesthetics quite a bit, complete with its themes of lethargy and medication. Like that album and Marilyn Manson’s Mechanical Animals, Never Let Me Go sits in between those two records – both sonically and thematically – and serves up a contemporary rendition for a new generation. Never Let Me Go is a fantastic album, and it could even be argued that it’s the most consistent and engaging album of their career – certainly, it’s their most ambitious to date.



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user ratings (99)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Groundking
March 27th 2022


1911 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Best since Meds? Let's fucking gooooo giddy to listen to this later when I have a free hour.

Pikazilla
March 27th 2022


23176 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Best since Meds for sure.

DoofDoof
March 27th 2022


11783 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This isn’t bad agreed

Mesm277
March 27th 2022


1080 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

They sound rejuvenated, great to hear. Their best since Meds for sure, loved that one as a nipper

BigPleb
March 27th 2022


65000 Comments


Can't believe Placebo sound this good in 2022, right up there with their early material.

markjamie
March 27th 2022


184 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Their "best since Meds" is getting tossed around a lot on various sites, but Meds was fairly uneven to be honest. I think you need to go back to Black Market Music or even WYIN.

Good album, but Hugz is really bad - does it grow on you?

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


27410 Comments


used to really dig Placebo but it's been a minute.. had to do a double take when I saw a new album by them

nice review!

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


17536 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Lyrically hugz is awful, but the music is authentic 90s grim so I can’t begrudge it too much. And while meds is prob my fave album by them, it’s not exactly a bold statement to say it’s the best since that, since anything after meds is average-to-okay

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


17536 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Thanks Atari

Sowing
Moderator
March 27th 2022


41306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh nice wasn't necessarily expecting to see a review for this



My first pass at this was surprisingly enjoyable and I'm about to listen again. Awesome write up as always.

Digging: Shinedown - Planet Zero

Rolling Girl
March 27th 2022


1904 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Okay maybe I should give this another go. I like it on my first listen. But I didn't feel like it stacked up with the bands best.

Digging: Astrophysics (BR) - Cute Tragedies

hangth3dj
March 27th 2022


451 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is awesome, waited too long for this!

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 27th 2022


17279 Comments


Incredible review Simon. You've a knack for just writing things as you hear them without getting caught up in hyperbole/embellishment et al. Love any review that manages to get a synergy line in.

Sowing
Moderator
March 28th 2022


41306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This was my first Placebo album. Singer reminds me of a blend between The Decemberists and The Mountain Goats. Favorite song early on is The Prodigal.

Pikazilla
March 28th 2022


23176 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you should really check their pre 2009 stuff

Sowing
Moderator
March 28th 2022


41306 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Probably will at some point. This was pretty great.

keaton_86
March 28th 2022


669 Comments


I think Sleeping with Ghosts is their best and it sounds better now than when it came out, but also, it has it's nostalgia hooks in me and reminds me of being 15.

zakalwe
March 28th 2022


35965 Comments


Always thought these were shite except for Pure Morning and that sordid one where lube gets a mention.

fogza
Contributing Reviewer
March 28th 2022


5867 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It kinda blows my mind this band is still going, i'll always have fond memories of their first two records (pretty much all one needs from them)

Digging: The Waterboys - This Is the Sea

Parallels
March 28th 2022


9695 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

>4.3

I want to believe



I'll get this soon to take a listen



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