The rebirth of the Libertines comes in the form of a brand new LP, Anthems for Doomed Youth is their first since 2003. It’s good to have the Libs back with their roaring sound in their classic mischievous style, Pete Doherty’s newfound clarity suits him very well and with the days of debauchery behind him and his partnership with Carl Barât is back in full form, it’s good to see them in their former glory. Anthems for a Doomed Youth is full of sharp anthemic tracks, fiery riffs, booming bass lines, and thrashing drum beats. The newfound clarity does nothing to dilute from their greatness of why the world first fell in love with them, they were a band that captured a generation. Their music is surprisingly poignant, it made them poetic underdogs with their self-loathing, realist, and defiant lyrics that you could either dance or rock out along with and also want to start a revolution to.
The opening track is Barbarians, it’s frenetic and exhibits a light of optimism for the broken. Gary Powell’s drumming is palpitating and palpable, as if you can almost touch it. John Hassall’s bass line is vividly ingrained and with the harmonious voice of Pete and Carl, it’s a great start and reminder of the times of the good ship Albion sailing to Arcadia.
The title Gunga Din derives from a poem by Rudyard Kipling, it’s about a British soldier who realizes his servant (Gunga Din) is a better man than he which seems to fit the spirit behind the song, almost as if they recognize their faults both past and present, which also seems to reference to their acrimonious dissolution. With lyrics like “woke up again to my evil twin/The mirror is fucking ugly, and I’m tired of looking at him,” harmonized with a reggae-like mantra.
Fame and Fortune is a reminiscing melody about the good ol’ Camden days as if it’s almost a comparison of the band’s history to a soldier’s march for glory.
Anthem for Doomed Youth is a slow-paced track with Barât’s voice on the forefront and Doherty’s voice perfectly harmonized and intertwined in the background. The title of the song is a nod to Wilfred Owen’s lament for fallen soldiers.
You’re My Waterloo is a wistful track with an affectional hazy piano intro and matching lyrics as Pete Doherty sings.. “You’ll never fumigate the demons, no matter how much you smoke. So just say you love me, for three good reasons and I’ll throw you the rope.” Such melancholia sensibility that seems to depict the roller coaster partnership of Barât and Doherty.
Belly of the Beast picks right back up with it’s mid-tempo range paired with robust guitar riffs infused with a tambourine beat, Powell and Hassall shine through with a rich bass line and pounding drumming.
Iceman reminds me a Kinks tune, an acoustic track that is telling a story, or better yet, a warning of a shady character that is always “on call“.
The fiery Heart of the Matter gets into some confessions but also showcases the band’s knowledge of their own checkered past with enchanting riffs and stellar beats paired with lyrics like “I get by, I get by/With just this wicked little smile”.
Fury of Chonburi immediately starts in with some dynamic riffs and chants filled with such angst, it’s brimmed with attitude and a repetitive chorus. This track would be an ideal choice to be released as a single. That 1:36 mark with that enthralling bass and the climactic buildup of the drums is frenzied and manically genius.
The Milkman’s Horse is a slow simmer, it reminds me of The Good Old Days (not so much as song similarities but in the words). The track exhibits Carl’s songwriting with self-deprecating and disillusioned lyrics like “in my cinematic mind I see battles fought at sea, I awake in dawn’s empire” sings Doherty, before he and Barât sing in unison chorus “what have you done? Get out of my dreams you scum” blended over a rippling beat and features some of the magnetic riffs/beats.
Glasgow Coma Scale Blues is a rager and reminder of the classic Albion pub rock with its high energy. Barât and Doherty share vocals over a blistering and quivering riffs, trashing drum beats, and howling solos singing “the only thing that kept us apart was your cold, unloving heart” and asking “what happened to the joy in your heart, to the boy at the start?”
Dead for Love is the debonair closing track, it’s a gradual and emotional halt. It starts off with a piano and a sound bit of a film reel which would make it the perfect track for a smoky film noir. It has everything.. Intrigue about a relationship (or partnership, Barât’s and Doherty’s perhaps?) that has become a lot stronger than it was in years gone by. It reminds me of something Nietzsche said perfectly, That which is done out of love is always beyond good and evil.
Ultimately, Peter and Carl’s partnership is back in full force plus John Hassall and Gary Powell finish off the uniting quartet by adding their brilliant and frenetic touch. It truly feels that they have returned at their strongest if they continue to move forward instead of trying to rehash past glories.. So perhaps the good ship Albion has returned from the depths of the sea.