Amidst the tabloid haze, stagnant chart-hitting guitar music and recent Mum-look-I’m-on-the-telly sized gigs, it’s hard to remember that the Libertines have only actually ever released two albums. Cracking ones, at that – ones that changed the face of indie music for a generation and led the way for the last 2006 wave of popular guitar bands like the Arctic Monkeys. But a discography so relatively small that you can hold a single disc in each hand. It’s the kind of Spaced approach to marking your name into the history books; two little bits of close-to-perfect art and then leave them wanting more.
Yet - over ten years after their second and seemingly last album – the ‘good ship Albion’ has sailed on into the hazardous oceans of a comeback album. Intriguingly, pop-producer-of-the-moment Jake Gosling was chosen. Sure, he’s hugely successful, having worked with Ed Sheeran and One Direction among many others; but that seemed a pretty massive risk considering that most of their back catalogue is about as squeaky-clean as a pair of one of the Fat White Family’s socks.
Lead single ‘Gunga Din’ certainly seemed pretty watered-down with its diluted radio-rock chorus, but it’s fair to say that the poppier production has worked fantastically with some of ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’’s tracks. Everything is far more grown-up, thoughtful and certainly a lot slower – nothing really comes close to the urgent turn-that-racket-down of ‘Mayday’ or ‘I Get Along’. That’s what the cleaner sound works beautifully with; ‘You’re My Waterloo’ is spellbindingly poignant with its delicate piano-interludes and chord sequences while ‘Iceman’ sounds bloody fantastic with its Beatles-y drums.
The breadth of the material is astounding compared to their previous stuff; Pete and Carl have essentially brought their respective solo projects on board ship, creating a new marriage of sounds that’s less coherent but far more interesting, like the Pulp-y ‘The Milkman’s Horse’ or Jam-inspired ‘Barbarians’. The record is less successful when it sounds too much like The Libertines’ earlier stuff – ‘Glasgow Coma Scale Blues’ has the kind of call-and-response vocals from ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, but something feels missing. ‘Fury of Chonburi’ stomps along but once again, the chorus comes off a little too poppy and doesn’t capture the sleaziness of the titular city. It’s a mostly successful and far more mature record; it just has to be seen as a more grown-up ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’ rather than the anthems from doomed youth that they previously brought.
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