The Libertines- Anthems for Doomed Youth (Album Review)

Finally, The Libertines new album is upon us. Anthems for Doomed Youth was released on the 11th September on Virgin EMI records 11 years after their last release- The Libertines. The album release came after a stint of shenanigans leading up to the release entitled “Somewhere Over the Railings” and a short- yet cancelled/postponed due to a medical emergency- run of intimate venues shows around the country. It also followed their triumphant Reading and Leeds headline set and their 2014 Hyde Park gig and is their first record since reuniting for Reading and Leeds in 2010.

The album was a risk, obviously. Why ruin a legacy 11 years on? Well, Anthems for Doomed Youth destroyed any previous scepticism and preconceptions surrounding the new album and adds another cluster of songs to the bands collection which all live up the Libertines name. 

The album begins with “Barbarians”. It seems fitting as an introduction to the album. It’s music seeps hype. It almost seems theatrical. It’s quite classic and interesting and it’s hook is catchy. I can imagine it being sung by large crowds. The last 30 seconds build up and lead perfectly into Gunga Din.

“Gunga Din” was released as the first, and comeback, single for the band. It starts off with Doherty singing in a somewhat reggae-rock style. It’s unique and captivating. It’s one of the strongest songs on the album as it’s upbeat and adds a twist on traditional Libertines. The chorus is extremely catchy and you’re almost guaranteed to be singing “la la la la la la la la la…” (from the chorus, in some variation) all day!

“Fame and Fortune” follows Gunga Din. Doherty and Barat seem to take on a somewhat theatrical role as though they’re telling a story. For some reason, I imagine a somewhat “Artful Dodger”-esque character due to the mesmerizing verses which seem to offer advice into finding things like “fame and fortune”. 

The title track “Anthem for Doomed Youth” is again captivating. The lyrics are extremely fascinating and well crafted. It’s like listening to someone tell a story.

“You’re My Waterloo” is metaphorically bitter-sweet and somewhat melancholic. It’s honest. It’s well composed and it’s one of the slowest songs on the album. It features a piano and some strings which add to the mood of the song being a love song. It’s mostly just Doherty singing and it feels honest and intimate as a song because it’s a love song. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album.

“Belly of the Beast” and “Iceman” follow this. Belly of the Beast is lyrically exciting. It features lots of poetic lyrics and even a choir, perhaps a gospel choir, at the end singing “Hallelujah day” which is unexpected but exciting. This adds to the feel of the song on the whole. “Iceman”, again, tells a story, this time of “she” and “him”, and Doherty and Barat’s voices work together, cooperatively, in harmony.  The verses alternate between the pair. I love how well their voices work together as it sounds so natural.

After this is “Heart of the Matter”. I like this song a lot. It’s catchy and the chorus is simple and easy to remember. It could potentially be a single on the album.

“Fury of Chonburi” and “The Milkman’s Horse” follow this. Fury of Chonburi is one of the rockier songs on the album. The verses seem fragmented, much like in “Gunga Din”, yet it’s still somewhat classic. The Milkman’s Horse is a slow song. The chorus rhymes and, again, seems very poetic, but I like this in the song and the way it’s crafted.

The penultimate song on the album is “Glasgow Coma Scale Blues” is bluesy, as the song title suggests, and features Barat and Doherty alternating backwards and forth in singing turns and answering each other’s lines taking alternate lines as though they’re singing to each other, this can be seen in older material like “What Became of the Likely Lads”. I love how cooperatively the pair work. It’s as though they’re again comfortable in each other’s company and at ease. It’s relaxed. I like this song because of that.

The last tune is “Dead for Love”. It starts with the sound of something like an old movie roll running accompanied by a piano. It’s slow. It seems as though it’s concluding the story seen throughout. It’s triumphant and rounds the album off well. It aches with longing for love and foolishness for everything he did for love. The last (just under a) minute, features a piano playing and a guitar. Faintly in the background you can hear talking which seems to be reciting some sort of poetry or conversation.

What I love about the Libertines is their incredible song and lyric craft. I love the poetic feel of the album and how it uses rhyming and metaphors in order to build up stories and characters throughout- it’s almost theatrical. I know Pete is a published poet and Barat, too, has notable links to poetry. I think this album reflects the true skill the band possess in terms of writing music and I love the cooperation between Barat and Doherty’s voices.

The highlights for me are definitely Gunga Din, You’re My Waterloo, Heart of the Matter, Glasgow Coma Scale Blues and Dead for Love.

Overall, I think the album is a success and is perfect for a comeback album. It was a risk well worth taking for the band. It shows how the band has developed over the years and after everything that’s happened between then and now. The Libertines are doing an arena tour in the UK early 2016 covering venues like the O2.

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The Libertines- Anthems for Doomed Youth (Album Review)

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