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.