Anthems for Doomed Youth :: The Libertines :: Album Review
Available here at iTunes
Although I will be doing a Top 5 New Release post later today/tomorrow (needless to say this one is #1), I would be remiss if I did not devote an entire post to the album I’ve been anticipating, and counting down, from one of my all-time favorite bands, The Libertines. I woke to the album waiting to be heard, and have listened at least a half a dozen times already this morning. This was heavily anticipated, and yes, I had the hugest of expectations, and they did it, they went above and beyond my expectations with an album that is emotional, raw, real, literate, heartbreaking, rich, rocking, rollicking, rough, bitter and beautiful all at once, full of sorrows and hope and love and history and story, and I could go on and on. Instead, I will do a track-by-track account of my feelings, at least my first day with this album feelings, about each song. This will be a breakdown of the album itself, though there is an amazing deluxe version with four extra songs that is definitely worth a (many) listen(s).
I am not going to include each track because I want you to go out and get this album and listen to it in its entirety. Seek it out, listen to it, share your thoughts. You can stream it on some of the music platforms out there, too. I will add a few tracks in, though.
You have my heart boys, and you did a mighty fucking fine job on this album. Cheers to you four today, and thank you for the music.
Anthems for Doomed Youth :: Song-by-Song:
“This one’s for your heart,
and for your mind,
the melody’s in four-four-time.”
First songs are so important. They act as the introduction, the hand-held lead in to what you are about to experience, they set the tone and hopefully grab onto you so you won’t want to let go, tune out, or turn on something else. The four-four time of the melody mentioned in the opening lyric, the slow build into a catchy and raucous chorus, the trading of vocals between Carl and Peter, the feeling that music and shows and fans and the “business” of being in a band, of making music, is a battle, when all they really want to do is scream and shout up on that stage. At least that’s how it feels to me, an ode to being up and out there, despite the struggles, and a tentative celebration of giving it another go, which is one hell of an introduction to an album that many thought would never happen.
“Oh, the road is long,
if you stay strong,
you’re a better man than I
You’ve been beaten and flayed,
you’re a better man than I.”
The first single, that has been out long enough to make it feel like an old favorite already. I love this track more with each listen, the punch of it, the lyrical refrains full of literary references and self-reflections (and confessions), the spirit of recovery and reuniting and fighting the good fight even if its rough terrain, it feels like one of those songs that will always be in my arsenal of “I need to get up and try again” music. This track is full of everything that had me falling in love with their songs back when I first heard Up the Bracket.
Fame & Fortune
“Like tin soldiers responding to the call,
to Camden we will crawl,
one and all.”
The tale of The Libertines in a song, or well, one of the tales. Fame & Fortune feels like a Pirate’s shanty, a gypsy folk tale set to song, a military chant to keep carrying on, a melodic, catchy, sing-a-long of a song that feels like it really should be the next single. All the shout-outs to places that are part of the history of the band, as well as the mentions of crossroads and the devil in reference to fame and fortune, what a tale it all tells, and what a song (I’d love to hear this one live).
Anthems for Doomed Youth
“Where are all the old dreams now?
once so proud,
lost in some old song and hanging on the old barbed wire.”
My favorite song on the album. The first notes remind me of Albion and Music When the Lights Go Out, and the song itself is so bittersweet, beautiful, hopeful and hopeless all at the same time (“we’re going nowhere, but nowhere’s on our way”), so full of love and loss and longing and disappointment and disillusionment, and yet, there’s hope still in there. This feels like a song for survivors, it brings me tears and cheers, and I love absolutely everything about it.
You’re My Waterloo
“You’ll never fumigate the demons,
no matter how much you smoke.
Just say you love me,
for three good reasons,
while I throw you the rope.”
I’ve heard this song in those earlier recorded demos so many times, countless times, and it has always been a favorite of mine, one held so close to my heart and full of emotion, that said, I did not expect to immediately burst into tears when hearing it on the album, but I did, messy, ugly tears at that. It was a reaction to how much this band has meant to me, the music, and the people who came (and left) my life that shared my love for them, too, how it made my heart soar, and break, all of it hitting hard and deep, but I am grateful for it, even for the hurt.
Belly of the Beast
“Back in London’s grey scotch mist,
staring up at my therapist,
he says “pound for pound, blow for blow,
you’re the most messed up motherfucker I know.”
My second favorite track on the album, Belly of the Beast is another “tale of the Libertines” feeling song that volley’s Carl and Peter’s vocals perfectly. It is as if they are each telling their side of the story, their version, or their part of it, the pain and the pleasure and all of it leads up to “a glory hallelujah day“, a lyric used in two songs, and scratched out on the album title just above “Anthems for Doomed Youth“. The lyric quoted above, sung by Carl, breaks my heart.
“Just for now,
we’ve have all the time.”
A slow burn of a song, one that I know will wrap itself around me with more and more listens, Iceman unfolds like a short story that I want to know more about. I love the sounds of the ocean at the start, and end, the lulling nature of it, how it bookends the track in the ebb and flow of the sea. Iceman is partly taken from a song that Peter wrote with Dot Allison years back, originally called I Wanna Break Your Heart, and has the most gorgeous jangly guitar solo that comes around mid-song.
Heart of the Matter
“With all the battering it’s taken,
well, I’m surprised it’s still ticking.”
A track that hits on battling depression, even in the midst of success, or other trappings of happiness, is a stunner of a song. This one brings tears, too, especially with the lyrics from the chorus above. Peter’s opening vocals are brilliant, and the build into the chorus becomes something powerful and attention-grabbing. This is such a juxtaposition of musical feeling with the heartbreaking, self-revealing words set to music that you just have to dance to.
Fury of Chonburi
“And I do wish him well,
I got him under my spell,
I think he’ll do just fine,
if he can tow the line.”
Chonburi, home to Pattaya, Thailand’s most notorious vice den, is ragged and punk rock fueled and rough around the edges in the best kind of way. The call and response of Carl and Peter’s verses seem to reference the same man, “Pig Man”, though could be referring to each other, as it is an interchanging nickname they’ve had for each other. This is another song I would love to hear live.
The Milkman’s Horse
“Get out of my dreams,
they weren’t meant for anyone,
they weren’t meant for anyone,
Oh my, oh my, oh my, oh my, this one, this song, well this might be my favorite actually, or at least tied with Anthems for Doomed Youth. This is so full of Brit Pop sensibilities, so beautifully melodic and happy feeling, so damn dreamy, despite the bitter lyrics. The line “it must be lonely being you being me” brings tears to my eyes, and hits deep. Good God though, it is fucking gorgeous.
Glasgow Coma Scale Blues
“What happened to the joy in the hearts of the boys?”
Another tale of the life of The Libertines, this has a lot of Up The Bracket feeling to it, as if the rough and tumble youth of that album had its heart broken and battered, but still came back around, evolving into this album (suppose that is kind of what happened). The back-and-forth riffs and vocal sparring in this song works so perfectly, making this song memorable and catchy and well up there in “this should be a single released” category.
Dead for Love
“Everything he ever did,
he only ever did for love.”
Closing an album is as important as opening one, and there are so many ways you can end one, much like there are so many ways to say goodbye; could be a “fuck off and good riddance” kind, a “until we meet again” kind, or a tearful sort of melancholy of the “I wish I didn’t have to go” variety. This one feels like the latter, and had me in tears (again) at the end, not wanting it to be over, not wanting the musical farewell to come. This song plays out like a film, a mysterious thriller filled with suspense, intrigue, and a broken heart goodbye right before the credits start to roll.