Monday, 14 September 2015

The Libertines - Anthems for Doomed Youth Review

The context of this album is perhaps as important as any of the actual music. That context is of course the Libertines legacy up until this point, which I would describe without a modicum of irony or sarcasm as the most romantic, yet tragic, in recent British indie music. It was comparable to a fire work display, an explosion of heat and light, eventually extinguished by its own uncontrollable energy.

 Add to this the single released by Pete Doherty earlier this year 'Flags of the old Regime', a contemplative ballad dedicated to the late Amy Winehouse, an unfortunate victim of the kind of lifestyle Doherty bemoans in the lyrics. It's melancholy, truly thought provoking and an insight into the mind of a man with intense inner turmoil. It questions the mentality of youth distorted and poisoned by fame and drugs, the destruction of relationships and friendships, and it's exactly the kind of material the Libertines should be producing.

 Which is why it pains me to say that the Libertines have missed a significant opportunity to allow their music to develop or reflect a more mature approaches to song writing and life in general. The album name suggested this would be the predominant theme, 'Anthems for Doomed Youth', and in all honesty the title track isn't substandard by any means. While fairly simple instrumentally, the lyrics seem completely irrelevant at times. Bar, of course, the strangely knowing lyrics 'they thought that they were brothers, then they half murdered each other, they started karaoke and murdered half their songs'. Whether this was an unkind insight into the reunion as a whole of another off hand rhyming couplet is something I can't speculate one, but this song could have been so much more enhanced and astute.

 The first single 'Gunga Din' seems to almost revel in the kind of substance abuse that has damaged them and their loved ones so much. It's ska inspired riff is simply too slow to be exciting and and the lyrics are actually particularly awful at times. 'Im going to write, because I've got the right' is clunky, badly written and so far below the standard Pete and Carl are capable of.

 The classic Libertines fire and affection is present on several songs however, the latter on 'You're my Waterloo', unsurprisingly as it's one of the most aged songs on the album, and the former on 'Glasgow Coma Scale Blues'. The highlight for me being the catchy and irresistibly Babyshambles-esque 'Heart of the Matter'. But these songs can't salvage an album that feels like the Libertines are just too tired to yell or swear the way they used to. 

 The album is perfectly functional, at times even particularly heartfelt, but I can't say I'm not disappointed by the lack of insight and thought provoking lyrical or thematic content. When this is coupled with an aging weariness looming over the entire project the result is the equivalent of being dragged back to the firework display over a decade later to stare at the burnt out husks.

 I can't recommend you buy the album, but it is worth listening to, even if you just stream it.

Charlie McCartney

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