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The Libertines

Review: The Libertines – All Quiet On the Eastern Esplanade

When the release of a new album by The Libertines was announced back in October it felt like receiving an unexpected call from an old friend that you haven’t seen for years (well, nine years to be exact since the release of ‘Anthems for a Doomed Youth’). Like anyone in those moments, it’s just nice to hear that your mate is doing alright and anything else seems like a bonus.

I’ve got to be honest though, when I heard ‘Run, Run, Run’, the single that accompanied the announcement, I wasn’t blown away. It’s decent enough and I liked the idea of the band as this gingerbread man type character, mischievously fleeing from the mangled carnage in their wake but the song didn’t grab me, or sound like anything truly memorable. But, like hearing from that old friend, I was just pleased that the boys were back together, enjoying themselves and making music.

The new album ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’ kicks off with the same lead single which is followed by ‘Mustang’ – again, another decent enough tune that tells the tale of Tracey, a lost, seaside soul dreaming about better things, but the song doesn’t exactly set the world on fire for me and, at this point, I was just expecting the rest of the album to be more of the same and it was beginning to feel like a swansong. I wasn’t quite wishing for the end at this point but I didn’t think I’d be too sad when the gingerbread man’s fox eventually made an appearance.

But then (– ahhh, don’t you just love a ‘but then’?) that’s when ‘Have a Friend’ kicks in, the third track, the one that makes you remember why you loved The Libertines in the first place. The guitars cut through the air and grab your attention and there is something irresistible about the vocal that makes you listen to every word. There’s a glorious, thrashy melancholy to it and when it ends with a squeak of the guitar I suddenly started to believe that there was much more to this album than I initially thought.

‘Merry Old England’ follows, a sardonic swipe at the national state of things, and now the album for me has really taken root and gathered some pace. And, I’m very happy to say, at this point I’m totally in, enjoying it and hoping that the sly fox has lost his way and his sweet tooth.

‘Man with the Melody’ comes next with honest and arresting lyrics set in a downbeat poetic meter that seem to say so much about how the band see themselves. ‘But I’d better go, with my demons in tow, they won’t come easy but it’s on with the show.’ The song also plays with the recurrent image of the ill-fated gingerbread man, ‘No, you can’t catch me, ‘cause I’ve got the melody.’ This is accompanied by a guitar part that has the unsettling quality of a travelling carnival that still maintains a strange allure despite the chipped paint and the reek of a snake oil salesman. Chimes of Steppenwolf, Bertold-Brecht and Swordfishtrombones – you’ll get enticed in, but don’t venture too close and never peek behind the curtain for fear of what you might see.

‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’ was recorded in The Libertines own studio in Margate  – the name references the address and in listening to it there is a real sense that the band are finally connected and making great music without the previous sense of impending implosion. Pete Doherty says,“We really came together as a band. It was a moment of rare peace and unity, with all the members contributing.” Carl Barât continues in that vein and sums up the journey that they’ve been on, “Our first record was born out of panic, and disbelief that we were actually allowed to be in a studio; the second was born of total strife and misery; the third was born of complexity; this one feels like we were all actually in the same place, at the same speed, and we really connected.” The Libertines sound as if they are in a good place and that feeling tangibly drips from this record.

It’s fair to say that I really like this album. It’s a great listen and, now that I’m into it, I don’t even mind the first two tracks so much anymore – so stick with it, it’s worth the early effort. The record strikes all of those raw and fundamental Libertines’ notes of a passionate musical energy and a joy for life that carry a subtle depth of seriousness and playful intelligence. There is also a real breadth of styles sitting comfortably together. ‘Night of the Hunter’ has the feel of a Morriconian wild west, ‘Baron’s Claw’ has a gentle, Romani swing and the album ends with a glorious, we’ve left the tapes running, singalong of ‘Songs They Never Play on the Radio.’ Thank you The Libertines for a great record, I’m just hoping that you don’t wait nine years to check in with us with the next one.

4.0 rating
4/5
Total Score
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