The Libertines Return With 'Anthems For Doomed Youth'
OK so after the band’s inevitable disintegration eleven years ago, The Libertines are back together with the release of their third album.
The sound is somewhat unmistakable in its stripped back simplicity and interplay between evocative Doherty and pragmatic Barat vocalisations. And most of the tracks are of the type that become instant old favourites with only a couple of listens needed before familiarity enables immediate hum-ability. The one song on the album that’s from their previous life ‘You’re My Waterloo’ fits well and enhances the newly written others.
Lyrically, the first single ‘Gunga Din’ (July 2015), loosely based upon a Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name, conjures up strong images of the intensity of the drug and alcohol struggles that Pete and Carl have both encountered along their journeys. The road has indeed been long, (and well documented), and to have pulled it together enough to record this album - hats off to them.
Musically, the evenly balanced split between the two co-frontmen on this track is also typical of the rest of the album. A lot of the songs seem to have an autobiographical slant to them, such as the jaunty la-along ‘Fame and Fortune’ with nods to their early Camden flat-sharing days.
The album as a whole gives off a distinct trace of poignancy and melancholy and unsurprisingly, given Doherty’s early upbringing, there are more than a few references to military life. It’s a grown up view of the world, and although still very Libertines, it’s like reformed (and heading along towards middle-aged) characters trying to give some much needed advice to their younger debauched and depraved selves.
On ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ the repeated refrain ‘It’s all going to be OK, we're going nowhere 'cause nowhere, nowhere’s on our way’ almost acts as a reassurance that this album is a bridge across troubled times, leading on to more of those magical Libertines moments that fans have yearned for over the last decade. The thrills and spills of earlier, more boisterous, and downright rowdy, tunes aren’t to be found on this album. To include songs of that ilk would come across as slightly disingenuous and probably a bit troubling.
The Libertines are back with a collection of songs which tell their tale in their own distinctive manner. It’s ever so slightly depressing, in a chirpy kind of way. With all that has passed it can’t possibly be the same as it was before. But it’s still The Libertines through and through, and if anything it serves as a warning to new bands to stay off the hard drugs and make rowdy, boisterous music for as long as you can.
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Words by Mary Long