Keep Art Alive :: Art by Loui Jover
“In my cinematic mind,
I see battles fought at sea.
I awake in dawn’s empire,
it must be lonely being,
you being me.“
About the song:
The Milkman’s Horse is the title of a Libertines track, released on their third album in September 2015. Carl Barat first revealed the track name an interview with Zane Lowe; when he told the presenter that The Libertines were working on new music, including tracks “Belly of the Beast” and “The Milkman’s Horse”. A later NME interview confirms that writing and singing duties were “split 50/50” between Doherty and Barat.
The song was first heard by fans when a demo was posted on 4th February 2015 on Peter’s YouTube account with the description:
“this is just guitar and Shane the engineer at Karma on drums.
I played it to Carlos – ‘quality control in a bandana and belt that doubles up as a knuckle duster’ – that he might consider it of sufficient overall merit to make play-offs in the competitive ‘the Libertines album sudden death shortlisty’
” the chorus has to go” says he
“what?” says I “the chorus has to go?”
“the chorus has to go.. no two ways about it me old mate. So say your goodbyes and lets see what I can come up with..” [clears throat]
and so the so and so came up with another ‘less supremes’ but equally supreme refrain. And the story continues…”
Since this demo, the song now has a completely new chorus written by Carl to replace the original that Pete half-inched from The Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ and The Four Tops’ ‘I Can’t Help Myself’. “Songs like ‘The Milkman’s Horse’ I thought were finished,” says Pete. “Then I’d give them to Carl and the pressure was on him to make them better. He really had to go all guns blazing, because there’s no point changing something unless you’re improving it. He really did us proud. He gave it a whopping great chorus, better than the Supremes rip-off it had before.”
NME review of the song:
“Probably the track that best sums up the 2015 incarnation of The Libertines. Slower-paced than their earlier material and built around a lilting melody that’s faintly reminiscent of ‘Creep’ by Radiohead, it’s got the best chorus on the record by a country mile and a feel that’s similar to the Manics and Suede in the late ’90s. By that, I mean it’s probably the most ‘comfortable’ the Libs have ever sounded. Lyrically, it’s wrapped up in despair though – there’s a great line from Pete about “battles fought at sea”, and how “it must be lonely being you being me”. He seemingly wrote the bones of the song a few months ago, as the video demo from his YouTube account below shows – although the chorus, which back then was too close to The Supremes’ ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ for Carl to handle (“So the so and so came up with another ‘less Supremes’ but equally supreme refrain,” as Pete writes in the YouTube info box) takes it somewhere else entirely on the record. An anthem and a high-point of the album
This was my first listen favorite on the album, and now, after many listens, it is tied with “Anthem for Doomed Youth” as my favorite from 2015’s Anthems for Doomed Youth.
The song is melodic, pop-infused, and heavily reminiscent of 90’s Brit Pop (think Pulp and Blur specifically). I an also see NME’s comparison to Radiohead’s “Creep”, though I find this song to be much more lyrically hopeful, and sonically upbeat.
On a more personal note, this song hits on the parts of me, and my life, that are shadowed in loneliness and bittersweet love. When a dream you’ve held true starts to break, or a relationship starts to fall apart, there is this strange mash-up of feelings that come around – the sadness and isolation of not feeling understood (heartbreak is such a solitary thing), and the resentment and anger that bubbles up because you are disappointed – how can you not be? Possibility is turning to grains of sand that will soon wash away in the ocean, never to be seen again.
“What you’ve done,
get out of my dreams you scum –
they weren’t meant for anyone,
they weren’t meant for anyone but me.”
Those lyrics feel like walls going up and defenses cocking their guns and rounding up security to protect myself with. The dreams were not individual, no, they were meant to be shared – but now that they are gone, or nearly gone, it all becomes individual – the tears, the pain, the sleepless nights. The dreams were meant for more than just me, but this now, the pain of it all, is all mine.
The Milkman’s Horse (2015) :: The Libertines
from the album, Anthems for Doomed Youth