This Libertines article was written by Bethany Gray, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
As the crooked figurines of The Libertines gaze outwards onto a sunset that throws them into an luminous shadow, it has never been made more clear of the voluminous hope and salvitude a whole generation of young and restless ‘libertines’ have implored into them.
They’ve served for a long time as a representation of the shambolic, but unwaveringly brilliant, minds of the un-fulfilled and the insuppressible, but with a self destructive hopelessness that has made them totter on the lines of becoming a tragedy. ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’ comes 12 years on from the self titled second album ‘The Libertines,’ and whilst it may have lost some of the ramshackle glory and fiery energy of its predecessor, it is everything the infamous band need to re-create their fate; reminding everyone of why we ever fell in love with them in the first place.
Although, interestingly, choosing Jake Gosling to produce the album (previously worked with One Direction, Ed Sheeran) no Libertines charm has been lost in the process. Take the first released single ‘Gunga Din’ for example, it isn’t hugely convincing – but it works. It demonstrates just how clever Barat and Doherty really are at songwriting; with subtle shifts and an altering focus between a clouded verse and a sing-along chorus. With Doherty blaring “What are you doing, you stupid f***** idiot? Wake up!” at the end, it’s a sign of a more clearer minded, wistful band.
In fact, the album as a whole showcases a more profound Libertines, one that doesn’t just punch out vibrationally fast tunes, but one that delivers songs that demonstrates their true musical spectrum, making those forever poetic lyrics more easy to discover. ‘Heart Of The Matter’ shows a shift of ideology: “You’re the number one at being hard done by….What’s the matter today?” It seems as if the band is now able to take a more penetrating look at themselves and ungrudgingly question their mistakes rather than misfortune, a clear contrast from the times of ‘Time For Heroes’ and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ which were famed for punching out at society.
However, it’s the chaotic and punk rackets of ‘Fury Of Chomburi’ and ‘Glasgow Coma Scale Blues’ that reminds us of the good old days (no pun intended). They may be messy, they may be rowdy; but it wouldn’t be the same without them.
‘You’re My Waterloo’ is a massive example of why The Libertines are still standing in terms of musical substance. It’s an old track, first recorded during the Odessa studio recordings, and is central to The Libertines mythology. A romanticised ballad that can only ever be delivered in true Doherty style – poetic and dangerously elegant. A real winner.
Title track ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ may be slightly frangible on the surface, but it’s the twisting and turning between Doherty and Barat; telling tales of love, hate and the turn of the Libertine wheels reassuring us that it’s “all going to be okay” that makes the song expand into a true anthem. Pete Doherty pays tribute to his passed friend and musician Alan Wass to finalise the album on ‘Dead For Love’ – it’s stabbing and atmospheric, building upon a distant piano and cutting vocals until it becomes a bleary eyed vision of hope.
Dabbling through punk, reggae and ska, ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’ succeeds on the basis that it is no mere replica. With the album name reminiscent of Wilfred Owen’s ode to the fallen World War One soldiers, it is clear from the start this is a presentation of strength, owed to those who have made it through to the other side.
Passing through depression, personal penchants, mental scars and that famous brotherly bond, it is enough to secure the Albion Ship back on track; albeit being a little disappointing at times, but would it be The Libertines if otherwise?
‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’ is out now on Virgin EMI