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Placebo's Never Let Me Go: first album in nine years is worth the wait

Brian Molko's band burn brightly on the intriguing Never Let Me Go, their first album in almost a decade

Placebo: Never Let Me Go album art
(Image: © Elevator Lady)

Like their sci-fi-noir rock contemporaries Garbage, Placebo are a band to which music is finally catching up. Nine years on from their seventh album Loud Like Love, Never Let Me Go finds their brooding cyber rock gently tweaked and polished – a little more synth, a touch more buzz and clatter – yet sounding as timely and relevant to future rock trends as at any point since Nancy Boy.

The album was made backwards, building songs around pre-written song titles and the sleeve shot of a psychedelic alien cove, but the result is reliably Molko: techpop crackers Beautiful James and Try Better Next Time blast past on sleek melodic hoverboards, while the darker, introspective tracks of the final quarter swirl and churn ominously, as if to remind us why The Cure and Bowie backed Placebo like brothers in the '90s.

There are sonic surprises: The Prodigal is sheer orchestral euphoria, Sad White Reggae should be called ‘Electrofunk Strutrock, Actually’ and Hugz comes on like RATM raging against the metaverse.

But it’s the themes that most intrigue. Over the course of the album, Brian Molko’s narcotic and pharmaceutical misadventures (Forever Chemicals) seem to descend into disjointed paranoia (Surrounded By Spies), demonic delusion (Twin Demons) and protective seclusion (Went Missing).

Along the way he touches on Brexit, surveillance culture, climate catastrophe, reincarnation and the illuminati. We, too, clearly have catching up to do.

Mark Beaumont is a music journalist with almost three decades' experience writing for publications including Classic Rock, NME, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Uncut and Melody Maker. He has written major biographies on Muse, Jay-Z, The Killers, Kanye West and Bon Iver and his debut novel [6666666666] is available on Kindle (opens in new tab).