The first time they came close to cracking the code stateside was on 1998’s stellar Without You, I’m Nothing featuring the singles ‘Pure Morning,’ ‘Every You, Every Me,’ and the title track (which features a guest vocal by none other than David Bowie). The second time was on 2006’s Meds featuring contributions from both Alison Mosshart (The Kills, Dead Weather) and Michael Stipe (REM) and their last North American tour with a featured slot on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution.
The albums between and after have ranged from solid (Black Market Music, 2000), to mediocre (Sleeping with Ghosts, 2003) to carefully polished crap (Battle for the Sun, 2009).
Their latest opens with the chiming title track that traverses between the bands creative strengths – great pop-rock songwriting amidst a beefy keyboard line and jangly guitar lines and vocalist Brian Molko’s one-of-a-kind voice. ‘Scene of the Crime, ‘ features more keyboard beneath a hand-clap opening verse before a sparse beat is laid down. Again the strength here is is Molko’s vocals and lyrics, with a wry chorus that states, ‘making it is overrated…’
The first unofficial single is ‘Too Many Friends,’ — a commentary on social media and what role technology plays upon our lives today. It features a great line: ‘My computer thinks I”m gay/what’s the difference anyway?/when all the people do everyday/is stare into a phone?’ It features a more guitar-heavy tone than the first two tracks.
Placebo return to their signature strength – the ballad – on ‘Hold On To Me.’ The circular guitar line is both reminiscent of 80’s New Wave and entirely within Placebo’s wheelhouse – especially when a wave of strings take over and Molko goes into a spoken word segment to end the track.
‘Rob The Bank,’ is my least favorite cut. It’s too reminiscent of the sloppy work produced on Battle For The Sun. At its core, it’s supposed to be a rocker following a ballad but it comes off as a free-word association with no meaningful social commentary. ‘A Million Little Pieces,’ recalls Sleeping With Ghosts – a perfect blend of piano, Molko’s lyricism/vocals and an underlying rock vibe with both plugged-in and acoustic strumming. I may have to revisit earlier albums but I seriously feel Steve Forrest’s drumming is so watered down. His predecessor, Steve Hewitt, seemed so much more in tune with Molko and Oldsal.
The gritty ‘Exit Wounds,’ follows and snakes it’s way to almost six minutes (note: the second half of the album is considerably longer running than the first half). It’s a gut-wrenching tale of losing someone to another that takes an almost stalker-like bend (‘…as he’s sliding into you/does it set your sweat on fire?’ and ‘I would hover/while he’s making love to you’). The middle of the track features keyboards that add to the sinister tone of the heartbreak involved, before an almost Cure-like guitar line in the outro.
Rock and roll comes back to the forefront with ‘Purify,’ and serves as a key straightforward tune in between the previous two tracks and the final two tracks of the album. A rollicking set of guitar lines above a rumbling bass line which is actually given center stage mid-track plays again to Placebo’s strengths.
I wish the band would have ‘reconfigured,’ the last two tracks. ‘Begin The End,’ is a beautiful track that should have properly closed out the album. It takes a gentler approach to the end of a relationship: ‘Don’t misconstrue/or misapprehend/there’s nothing left/no fortress to defend/and tonight’s the night that we begin/the end…’ It features a positively Edge-like guitar shuffle and for once Forrest’s understated drumming fits the tone.
Instead we close with ‘Bosco,’ – this is not the first time Molko has explored co-dependent relationships. Meds juxtaposed it’s final tracks and got the mix right with ‘In The Cold Light of Morning,’ and “Song to Say Goodbye.’ ‘Bosco,’ is a good track, just not the appropriate closer.
Placebo are still moving forward, which I’ve got to give them credit for, especially because I’m a life-long fan. Loud Like Love, to it’s credit, is no Battle for the Sun. To it’s detriment, even its strengths (‘Hold On To Me,’ ‘Purify,’ ‘Begin The End,’) are shells of past successes. A pleasant rock album in a pretty solid year all around for music. My sentimental factor probably factors into perhaps a higher grade than is deserved…