With Anthems for Doomed Youth, The Libertines have done what many bands from their era cannot — return after an 11-year-long hiatus as enigmatic as before.
Ever since they formed the Libertines in 1997, co-frontmen Carl Barât and Pete Doherty have surrounded themselves with an aura of mystery. The duo’s love-hate relationship and Doherty’s drug use have been scrutinized to no end, and their recent reformation raises more questions. Anthems for Doomed Youth, released Friday, answers none of them, blending their early rough rock sound with a modern pop twist to create a surprisingly full and exciting experience.
Anthems for Doomed Youth is built upon the same key element every Libertines release is — songwriting. The Barât-Doherty duo matches the likes of Lennon-McCartney with the intricacies and dynamic components of their lyrics. In “Heart Of The Matter,” the album’s third single, Doherty reflects, “With all the battering it’s taken, I’m surprised it’s still ticking.” In one sense, Doherty is literal, wondering how his heart didn’t fail after his rampant drug use, but in another, he’s referring to the band’s emotional turmoil.
Although most of their songs revolve around love, the songs that stand out on this LP aren’t always about relationships.
“Iceman,” an acoustic tale of redemption, is far from the Libertines’ typical rebellious style but is executed with inscrutable detail, making it an exclamation of the group’s return.
This album strays away from a bitter approach, opting to maintain a retrospective but confident mood. Each melody on Anthems for Doomed Youth provides an energetic sound, with “Gunga Din” and “Glasgow Coma Scale Blues” standing out with their catchy choruses.
At some moments, though, minor pop influences contribute too heavily to their sound. Jake Gosling, the album’s main producer, worked with Ed Sheeran and One Direction. He tends to steer The Libertines toward the pop side of the indie spectrum. For some listeners, this creates a more hospitable sound, but older Libertines fans might want the rougher and uneven version of the group back.
As listeners dive deeper into the music, minor but important production flaws rear their ugly faces. On several choruses, especially that of “Belly Of The Beast,” backing vocals are brought far too upfront, making the lyrics an echoed mess. The lead
guitar of these songs should have been accented more to embellish the overall mood of each track.
With drug references kept to a minimum, stronger pop influences and a tightening of the album’s production, it might be hard for fans to embrace this new version of The Libertines. However, these changes display an important part of Barât’s and Doherty’s evolution into more mature songwriters.
The Libertines’ style has changed so drastically that they might as well not even be the same band, but with Doherty finally in good health, The Libertines’ future looks nearly as bright as when they began recording.
Album: Anthems for Doomed Youth
Genre: Indie Rock
Rating: 3.5/5 stars