So I’ll be honest. I was a bit slow to jump aboard The Libertines train. In this marmite world of loving or hating the band I was stuck for quite a while in a no-mans land, where I knew I didn’t dislike them, but felt like because I wasn’t in love with them/crazily obsessive, I couldn’t really have a major opinion. But hey! There’s a new album and people like me (who have since listened to all their albums as ‘research’ cough cough) are totally entitled to write rambling reviews for websites musing over their lasting impact, legacy, and new directions (or lack of, depending on which team you’re on).
It’s not that much of a departure from the music that has come to define the band. The rough, raw, but slightly jangly guitars. The tight sharp guitars. The vocals: part careless drawl, part bitter cry out to the harsh reality they reside in. In Anthems For A Doomed Youth, The Libertines fuse this with a more electronic sound, a vast soundscape, echoing and crashing around anthemic vocals. The influence of their stadium gigs can be heard clearly too. Everything sounds just that little bit bigger and louder, unlike on say Up The Bracket, which was clearly written for the grotty and grimy East London venues they then resided in. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their outlook and vision of the world. It paints a dystopian vision of a dark London night, shady tales of the underbelly of the city. Verging on voyeurism, you’re drawn into this world, sung around street corners and avoiding the shady characters on the other side of the street.
It opens with Barbarians, a moody haunt of a track. It sounds like a classic Libertines track, all the distinctive give away, but created for 2015. On the other hand title track is far more tender, almost bittersweet in its delivery. Personally I think my favourite track might be Heart of the Matter, though it’s clear that Gunga Din is already going to remain a fan favourite, with its punky-ska mixed with can’t-be-arsed attitude. The influence of Doherty’s personal rocky life is painfully obvious in tracks like Iceman, a testament to the pure and truthful lyricism which have always been one of the stand out factors of the bands songs. The songs go from scathing to simply heartbreaking. Frankly it’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.
You can imagine adoring teens in crowds at gigs crying because they just feel those lyrics. And that’s all part of the beauty and genius of The Libertines – they continue to be able to capture that wild youthful part of the soul in a song. Something about their music reminds you what it’s like to be alive really. Personal stories, which might be nothing like your own, probably far more tame existence, but still ringing truth in the emotions they convey. Combined with the, as always, spot on guitar from Barat, and forever solid drums. It’s the winning formula which continues to gain them listeners and fans.
I’m not going to say that it was always going to divide opinion, because frankly, if you’re judging it purely on the music, its really quite a decent – okay, great – album. It’s the lasting legacy and question – does the world still need The Libertines. I’d say probably yes. Who else in indie rock are the tabloids going to talk about whilst producing cracking music these days?