Album Review: The Libertines - Anthems For Doomed Youth

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Towards the end of the 1990's the whole britpop frenzy had cooled down somewhat. Blur became jaded with their dandy character studies and started becoming fascinated with the lo-fi fuzzy sound of American indie-rock bands.

Oasis over did it with the excess, struggling to find their next chapter. Radiohead eclipsed britpop by adding their own 21st century tech-fueled paranoia and a love of classic rock expanse.

After the turn of the century, british rock was mostly characterized by emotional, muted, gentlemen rock like Coldplay, Travis and Embrace. It was at this moment when The Libertines crashed the scene like a bag of bricks through drywall.

The London based band of misfits included the dual singer-songwriters Carl Barat and Pete Doherty as well as bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell. The guys also didn't fit in with the legion of "The..." bands populating 2002 like The Hives, The Strokes, The Vines & The Datsuns.

Early singles like "What A Waster" and "I Get Along" married pop sensibilities with shambolic sloppiness not heard in UK rock since the heyday of The Clash or The Fall.

Their now-classic debut album Up The Bracket was a perfect amalgamation of what was missing from British rock at the time, a real sense of danger. Slurred vocals delivered catchy melodies which fought to keep up with the thrash of loud guitars and muscular rhythm section.

Mick Jones of The Clash was a perfect choice in producer, as the album was a nice send up of The Clash's sound without becoming an imitation.

The band also gained new importance after the December 2002 passing of founding Clash man Joe Strummer leaving an enormous void that The Libs had no choice but to attempt to fill.

However, trouble came quick for the Libs, as they talked the talk and walked the walk of a dangerous punk rock band. Instantly becoming UK tabloid fodder, Pete Doherty's fame rose on a weekly level as well as his tolerance to hard drugs.

Hanging with celebrities and supermodels and missing gigs, Doherty's bad-boy status helped spread the word on The Libertines while at the same time spoiling their future as a band.

After their second album failed to cross the band over, the boys split for years, working on solo projects and Doherty battling his demons.

As with so many britpop bands, The Libertines needed the combination of the two energies of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat to truly thrive.

So their sold-out reunion shows at London's Hyde Park and Alexandria Palace further cemented the fact that the boys needed each other, with the result being that the original four members would hit the studio and record a third album.

So September 2015 brings Anthems For Doomed Youth, the first new Libertines album since 2004. The album is filled with tough life lessons that the guys have experienced in the past 11 years as well as fleshed-out versions of demos that the guys have been kicking around for years. First single "Gunga Din" is an exhilarating experiment built on a dub/reggae verse and an exploding, yet shaggy chorus. Carl and Pete's voices meld together to form one strong but mumbled expression.

The production is a bit cleaner than on previous albums, due in part to Jake Gosling, a former One Direction producer, but this still comes nothing close to pop music. "Belly Of The Beast" contains an arena shaking chorus.

"Iceman" is a creepy Pete Doherty demo that has been circulating for years, chronicling Pete's battle with substances.

The word is Pete has cleaned up his act, but the sound of the album, as well as the mention of William S. Burroughs and Amy Winehouse in the liner notes creates a feeling that this is still an everyday battle that he faces.

Album closer "Dead To Love" is the closest thing to a ballad on here, with the guys emoting boozily over a gorgeous piano line.

Falling somewhere between The Pogues and Suede, "Dead To Love" is a poignant, bittersweet send off for the "likely lads." Hopefully the guys can keep it together and continue to create lovely, grungy British rock.

Anthems For Doomed Youth by The Libertines gets 4 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.

For more on The Libertines:

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