Record review: Placebo – Loud Like Love (2013, LP)


They may have been around since 1994, but Loud Like Love is – somewhat surprisingly – only Placebo’s seventh studio album, and first full-length record in four years. So, are the English alt-rock veterans growing old gracefully, or making musical fools of themselves? The answer is a little bit of both, as this ten-track album has some good moments, and some pretty bland filler. In the first few years of their existence the band had an edge that quickly smoothed out after the turn of the millennium, and they haven’t again hit the heights of tracks like ‘Pure Morning’ or ‘Teenage Angst’. In saying that, there are some solid tunes here; the title track and piano and strings-led closer ‘Bosco’ being good examples, but for every good song, there are two bad ones. Lines like “My computer thinks I’m gay, I threw that piece of junk away, on the Champs Elysées” on ‘Too Many Friends’ show that frontman Brian Molko is still primarily milking the subjects of blurred sexuality and alienation for lyrical content, and his flat attempts at social commentary on tracks like ‘Rob The Bank’ leave him wide open to criticism. His addition of spoken-word lyrics on ‘Hold On To Me’ seems like an attempt at some sort of Tolkien-esque middle-earth fantasy, and the electronic elements on ‘Purify’ are a little grating. Die-hard fans of the band might find a fair bit to like on this latest addition to Placebo’s catalogue, but it’s not an album you’ll likely to still be spinning in the coming weeks and months. (Universal)

Record review: Jagwar Ma – Howlin (2013, LP)

Jagwar Ma

Manchester in 1990 must have been a pretty cool place to be. Bands like The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, and The Inspiral Carpets were kick-starting a new musical revolution good enough to see off the manufactured crap-pop that dominated the charts in the ’80s. But for such an iconic group of bands to have so few direct descendants taking on the legacy of ‘Madchester’ music is a little strange. Enter Sydney indie-dance duo Jagwar Ma. Howlin – the band’s debut album – comes complete with the sort of ecstasy-fuelled beats you might expect to see on the dance-floor of The Haçienda nightclub in its heyday; all that’s needed is a few hundred wide-eyed party kids and Bez flailing his arms around on a stage somewhere. Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield manage to cross genres and eras with apparent ease throughout the album; going from dance, acid-house, indie-rock, and back again from song to song. Every DJ and dance producer knows not to blow their wad too early, so opener ‘What Love’ is a chilled-out start, easing us into the more up-tempo tunes to come, and ‘Uncertainty’ is surely the brother-of-another-mother of The Happy Mondays’ ‘Hallelujah’, with a dangerously catchy chorus and plenty of synths. The excellent ‘The Throw’ and ‘Come Save Me’ will be well-known to radio listeners and possess perhaps the best hooks, and later track ‘Exercise’ could have been lifted from a Stone Roses album, and ‘Let Her Go’ has shades of cult indie band The Las. Keep an eye on these guys – they’re doing something more than a little special. (Future Classic)