Called Never Let Me Go, it channels all their skill as songwriters and sound-makers into music that satisfies their near-brutal appetite for self-expression, but also seeks a furious relevance with the early-20s world we all find ourselves in – crawling out of the pandemic into a landscape of intolerance, division, tech-saturation and imminent eco-catastrophe.
As such, the 2021-model Placebo are the diametric opposite of mid-career complacency, tackling both global issues and their own creative demands head on. The option to sit back and coast on former glories was there on a plate for them when they were last among us circa 2016-18.
A best-of collection entitled A Place For Us To Dream had propelled them onto a world-wide greatest-hits tour – much of it in arenas and large outdoor venues – where they’d dust off mid-90s bangers like Pure Morning, Nancy Boy, and Without You I’m Nothing, a tune which they’d originally recorded with their superfan, David Bowie.
The marketing script probably stipulated that playing these songs every night would reconnect them with their most commercial instincts, but the experience quickly became nightmarish for them.
“I thought it all got a little bit too commercial, around that period – the retrospective period,” says Brian, virtually spitting out those words with revulsion. “The whole enterprise was commercial, rather than artistic one, and I guess we reacted against that. I’m like, ‘the next record is gonna be about the pain of the world!’ The silent scream that is everywhere – that’s what interests me.”
Never Let Me Go is music for the committed and the disenchanted, for insomniacs and activists to chew over at their leisure.
It also takes Placebo to a thrilling new breadth of sound and style – yet another ‘best album they’ve ever done’, in an unstoppable sequence of them. Once you’ve grabbed hold of it, indeed, you won’t want to let it go.
Placebo play Birmingham’s O2 Academy on December 8.