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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 234 - 09/28/15

The Libertines
Anthems for Doomed Youth
Virgin EMI

The tale of The Libertines goes on and on and on.... The Libertines formed in the late 90s by friends, fighters and party-lions Carl Barât (vocals/guitar) and Pete Doherty (vocals/guitar). The band (especially the frontmen pair) rambled, scrambled and stumbled through a short and hectic career: The Libertines put out two studio albums, Up the Bracket (2002) and The Libertines (2004), before Doherty's drug problem tripped the band over. The Libertines dissolved in late 2004, after some cartoonish stunts of trying to keep the band, or the song writing partnership of Doherty and Barât together. Just check the wild tales of (Creation label boss, manager and musician) Alan McGee, who sweated as the manager of The Libertines throughout their turbulent, last months back in 2004 [you should go read McGee's autobiography from last year, Creation Stories: Riots, Raves and Running a Label]. The Libertines had a short reformation in 2010 (for the Reading and Leeds festivals). Last year the band reunited again and in July 2014, the band played Hyde Park, London. In early 2015, Doherty came dry from rehab, and the band started to record this, their third album.

It's not that Doherty and Barât have been lazy since the first Libertines break-up, as there's (almost) been a creative competition between the pair: Doherty has led his band Babyshambles through three albums: Down in Albion (2005), Shotter's Nation (2007), and Sequel to the Prequel (2013), while Barât's group Dirty Pretty Things (yes, there is a strong nod towards The Pretty Things in that name...) have put out two records; Waterloo to Anywhere (2006) and Romance at Short Notice (2008). In 2009, Doherty put out a solo album, Grace/Wastelands, while Barât made his self-titled solo debut the following year. For Barât 2015 has been busy already, as Carl Barât and The Jackals launched their Let It Reign (via Cooking Vinyl) last February. However, here's Anthems for Doomed Youth for you. Brought to you by Barât and Doherty, backed by John Hassall (bass) and Gary Powell (drums).

This new album presents a handful of decent, charming and catchy pop/rock songs, where The Libertines flash some of their heroes from the UK pop/rock past. The opening "Barbarians" makes me, at times recall or think of The Jam. Throughout the twelve songs of the album (the deluxe version counts four bonus tracks) we get presented to the history of Brit pop and rock through the last 50 years: from The Kinks (just go check out "Iceman" or "Fame And Fortune"), The Small Faces, and The Pretty Things ("Glasgow Coma Scale Blues") back in the 60s, via the rebellion and the powerful attitude of The Clash, the Sex Pistols and The Jam from the 70s, as well as the spirit of The Smiths ("Heart Of The Matter"), and the destructive drive of Manic Street Preachers. Yes, even Oasis ("Anthem For Doomed Youth"), Blur ("Fame And Fortune"), Pulp, Supergrass ("Fury Of Chonburi"), The Coral ("Belly Of The Beast") and several others comes to mind. All this said, The Libertines is no copycat band. They are just good at picking/soaking inspiration. "Fame and Fortune", one of the album's better songs, is an arch-British pop song and its references makes Libertines a true London band. Of course, there are many a references to names/ places of/in London within their lyrics, topped by the love/hate ballad "You're My Waterloo". The album's first taster, "Gunga Din" is probably influenced by Rudyard Kipling's poem (of 1892), with Doherty/Barât being indeed straight-forward and open about his/their hard-fought past/life:

'Getting sick and tired of feeling sick and tired again
I tried to write, because I got the right
To make it look as if I'm doing something with my life
Got to find a vein, it's always the same
And a drink to ease the panic and the suffering
I woke up again
Dreamt of Gunga Din
...
Woke up again to my evil twin
The mirror is fucking ugly and I'm sick and tired of looking at him
Been up all night, I'll probably pick a fight
'Coz I can't help it, I'm bastard in the morning
So I try to write, I think I have the right
A little drink-y now and then to help me just to see the light
Just another day, it feels like nothing's changed
Oh fuck it, oh here I go again'

The 45 minutes goes quite quickly. The Libertines are good company (I guess it's something completely different if you're in the same room as gents Doherty and Barât...), with their ragged pop/rock, fuelled with wit and charm. They're making rock clichés as they step forward, but they become what they do - and all this suits them perfectly. Despite a few weaker songs, Anthems for Doomed Youth is a strong and convincing comeback. Consider me a fan. The Libertines are not doomed.

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