Following an infamous ten year hiatus, The Libertines returned in September 2015 with their eagerly awaited third album, Anthems For Doomed Youth. While it’s good to have them back together and producing music again, we can’t help but feel like maybe they left it a little late to recapture all that much of the momentum they’d built up. The new album is a strong effort that’s grounded in the indie-rock, post-punk revivalist ethos that made them stand out so much back in the early 2000s, but is it enough to light the touch paper all over again for the band?
For us, the answer is a fence hugging possibly, as a lot of it will depend on how well their early 2016 UK and European tour goes. During the heyday of their supersonic rise to legendary status, their live performances were the rocket fuel behind their support and if they’re able to rekindle this a little from the seven UK gigs then next year could be a special year for the band. However, they’ll need a lot more gigs under their belts to get back in touch with the grass roots support that they once commanded.
Anthems For Doomed Youth starts out with quintessential Libertines charm in Barbarians, an indie-rock guitar track at heart with a few flecks of ska around the fringes. It’s followed up effortlessly with the album’s lead single, Gunga Din, which continues the flirtation with offbeat rhythm, with some solid electric riffs, Carl Barât’s ramblings and a hooked chorus.
Fame & Fortune has got a hint of The Kinks about it, while also sounding like the offshoot of a dark musical version of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House or maybe George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer. The title track is a slow melt with a duet soliloquy on life, You’re My Waterloo is its quite lullaby beauty spot and Belly Of The Beast is the anxious rebel rousing twitch.
Things creep down to the acoustic tale of pretty youth that is Iceman, before climbing up a notch in 2 tone teaser, Heart Of The Matter, which is one of the pacier tracks on the record. The vocal interplay is as strong as ever, continuing one of The Libertines’ defining qualities with Barât and Pete Doherty flicking on and off like a complex and sinuous lighting system.
There’s a mad darkness to the post-punk fight of Fury Of Chonbury, but things change direction once again in the easy, addictive progression of The Milkman’s Horse and again with the uptempo indie-rock anthem, Glasgow Coma Scale Blues. Up and down the record buzzes as it vaults the barbs and then ducks under the stage to find a quiet spot to think and it’s the latter that it closes on in Dead For Love, a piano fuelled poem noir that talks of guns, dead men and love. It caps a brilliant return for the band, which should give them a heap of new material to grace us all with on their tour next year.
Life is filled with platitudes and it’s a plum when one is smashed to pulpy and stone shard smithereens and that’s exactly what Anthem For Doomed Youth does for The Libertine. Who said you can’t go back, you can’t reset the clocks? It’s 000 again and we’ve already had a blast, but there’s a dangerous looking ember smouldering next to the potassium nitrate soaked blue tab, so who knows what’s going to happen from here on in.
The Libertines, Anthems For Doomed Youth review: 4.5/5