The Libertines - Anthems For Doomed Youth (Virgin EMI Records) 
The Libertines - Anthems For Doomed Youth

Release Date: 4th September 2015

I have to admit that, much like the Smiths, I never really got all the hype around the Libertines. A couple of good tunes and some eccentric behaviour, sure, but nothing to suggest the kind of living legend status they've been afforded. Still, they are one of the most enthralling bands of a generation so a new album will always be met with a certain sense of excitement and expectation. The return is heralded by the opening tune 'The Barbarians' which has those signature rolling drums, atmospheric guitars, gang harmonies and 60s chord progressions. Recent single 'Gunga Din' is up next and takes a slower run up at that Libertines sound and, dare I say, a slight cod-Reggae vibe which is thankfully overridden by a more standard indie chorus. It is on 'Fame And Fortune', however, that Carl, Pete and the rest really return to form with London running through the centre of the song like a black tie against a crisp white shirt as the quirky guitars duel with Albarn, Suggs and Dury inspired lyrics.

Album title track of sorts 'Anthem For The Doomed Youth' sees the band casting a lonely, disconsolate shadow while they compare Cromwell and Orwell for lyrical convenience and croon as though it's the end of a Brit flick about the end of some era. The piano opening to 'You're My Waterloo' could come from the smoky backroom of a prohibition bar after hours but that voice is unmistakable in all its fractured glory as they name check Tony Hancock and sing like there is nothing left to hope for. Things pick up on 'Belly Of The Beast' as the military drumming of Gary Powell soon gives was to a skiffley scuffle and lyrics mumbled from behind a coat collar with a half smoked fag loitering between those lips. There is a pent up energy that is almost restrained, held back on this album and you want it to explode but maybe they're keeping that back for the live shows.

The Libertines - flag hags
'Iceman' starts slowly with a dirty acoustic riff emerging from the shoreline of a murky city river and stumbles on to a city street to bump in to all the workers heading to their towers of high finance while 'Heart Of The Matter' is a typically fast paced ramble through and indie disco stomper. Track of the album for me is 'Fury of Chonburi' which has the beef and menace that is a little lacking on the rest of this collection as John Hassall's popping but dirty bass keeps the tempo relentlessly high throughout. The mellower approach to 'The Milkman's Horse' (possibly a euphemism, not sure) shows a side of the band that perhaps nods to another direction while the intriguingly titled 'Glasgow Coma Scale Blues' is the bastard son of the Kinks and the Stones being looked after by Josh Homme for the afternoon.

The album closes up with 'Dead For Love' and that smoky piano is back again to create a more epic backdrop than the Libertines have any right to provide for a song as it approaches Bond theme proportions if they ever filmed a Bond film in the East End with Ray Winstone as the villain. This is a good album, there is no disputing that, there are some cracking tunes and lyrically there is a lot to give. What I'm not sure of is whether this is a great album or even an album worthy of existing under the shadow of the Libertines legend. It'll still shift mega units though and there a few songs here that will fit nicely between the classic anthems during the live shows.

More information:

Live Dates:

6th September - O2 Academy, Glasgow

7th September - Rock City, Nottingham

8th September - O2 Academy, Bristol

10th September - Electric Ballroom, London

11th September - Ritz, Manchester

12th September - Tempelhof Airport Lollapalooza, Berlin

21st November - Festival Corona Capital, Mexico