A record of bloody-nosed nostalgia, of earworm riffs, of thick layers of grunge and jazzy breaks that swell up just when you think you’ve pinned the sound down
At the moment, we really wish it was 1996, don’t we? Take us back to a place before pandemics, wars, spiralling costs of living and some of the darker corners of Twitter, where the only concern was shoving the androgynous eyeliner and heroin-fucked boys out of the way to apply your lipstick in the glam club because (archaically) the men’s toilets didn’t have a mirror. Take us back to the sweat of the late nights stumbling over bodies at house parties that seemed never to end. Times were oh so simple then.
It makes sense right now that we’d be looking back with rose-tinted glasses at those moments of nostalgia. With the escalating “this-is-fine” situations we’re battered by, we grasp with wraith-like fingers at these scrappy memories of the past, wirily entangling ourselves with a hope that it will get better (it will, won’t it?).
Well then. You see, Never Let Me Go, from mighty glam lords Placebo is a record of true bloody-nosed nostalgia. A glitter soaked, no holds barred hard hitter, spooking us back to times when all we cared about was the next night out and just how much food colouring to put in the cupcake batter to make it pink. A melancholia-tinged cacophony of that classic Brian Molko twang, its synths, heavy guitars and even heavier glitter eyeliner.
We open with jangled bells, that discordant sound so evocative of the band. Then in drops the early 2000s fuzz, heavy guitars that deserve a stomp. We’re immersed. The opening line, “The memory drugs make memory snow” is as relevant to our teenage angst as it is right now, and we dive right into a eulogy to the anti-depressants that saved our lives. The catchy chorus “it’s all good when I feel nothing” sticks in our mind for the rest of the album, as we traverse the rest of the rock-punk-glam-electroclash sound we feel so well.
There’s plenty here to unpack, be it earworm riffs, or thick layers of grunge – the defining sound that drives the record – or jazzy breaks that swell up just when you think you’ve pinned the sound down. Filled with the classic Molko goth-nihilism it’s twinged with as much Nirvana as it is Depeche Mode. Familiar yet fresh, a grower indeed, catchier with each listen.
Focus points include heart-breaking lament Happy Birthday In The Sky, a bleak discordant portrayal of police violence ending yet another life too soon. Surrounded By Spies, where intoxicating dark disco spurs us on our search for life’s real meanings in between all its intricacies. Sad White Reggae, an irony-laced piano gallop to the gap-yah kids, the musical equivalent of white-people-should-not-have-dreads (fight me) and conspiracy theories. The end of the album drives us through to Fix Yourself, and closes our listening experience with a literal “Go Fuck Yourselves”. Bold. Spiky. We love to see it.
It’s clear from Never Let Me Go that Placebo aren’t slowing down. Thing is, we don’t really want them to. This one’s for the girls who kissed their Molko posters every morning before bouncing off to sixth form, for the boys who wore their hair long and cut the sleeves off their jumpers, and everyone in between who first felt the flutterings of fucking with gender through our prince. And it’s almost… comforting? Pull up a seat and fall into the arms of a slice of the past for a while, why not. It’s worth it.