By Adil Akbar
A while back, a new Libertines album seemed as likely to happen as a new Oasis album. Yet it seems a miracle happened, and 11 years after their last album, they come out with “Anthems For Doomed Youth.”
Now the first thing that you’ll notice is that The Libertines in 2015 seem sobered and hungover. The youthful optimism that oozed from Up The Bracket and the not-so-subtle digs that were passed around in the self-titled album have been thrown out. In the opener, “Barbarians,” Pete screams to himself: “What are you doing, you stupid, fucking idiot? Wake up!” They’ve have always been very good at writing about themselves, but now, after all that’s happened, they’re finally looking at themselves clearly. They’re no longer shifting blame around, and we’re given an album that reflects this.
If you’re looking for some sign of the decadent punks that produced “Horrorshow” and “What a Waster”, they’re still here, in songs like Fury of Chonburi” and “Glasgow Scale Coma Blues.” On these tracks they channel their younger selves, but it is also on these tracks that they seem less interesting and more easily-forgotten. The album is instead at its best when showing off their new selves, like on “You’re My Waterloo” and the title track. “Waterloo” shows them at their most tender and one of Pete’s best vocal performances. The title track, however, takes a stab at their old dream, Albion; “Where are all the dreams now/ The battalions, once so proud/ Lost in some old song and hanging on old barbedwire.”
The boys no longer seem set on conquering the world with frenzied anthems and bangers. Rather, they’re now emphaizing song structure and melody, with a more polished sound courtesy of producer Jake Gosling whose credits include One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful. The polished production is most apparent “Fame and Fortune,” which recalls Blur at the height of Britpop, a fun turn that doesn’t take itself seriously. But perhaps the best thing to come out of this album are the lyrics, the musings on their broken lives. Take, for instance, Carl’s account of their signing to Rough Trade in the aforementioned song, “The trade was rough/ Dublins down for a double bluff/ Dip your quill in your bleading heart / Sign there and there and there.” Or when Pete takes on himself in “Heart of the Matter”: “No one can hold a light to your misery/You’re number one/ Being hard done / Hard done by.”
Even with a matured sound and outlook, Anthems For Doomed Youth doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first two albums. Yes, it’s a miracle that a reunion album can even be this good but it still sits in the gray space of being “okay” and seems more of a starting point for the next chapter in the Libertines’s story. However, with a start like this, it seems that the Libertines have more life in them yet.
Adil Akbar is a Contributing Writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org