Sound — 7
Despite being part of the influential and fruitful garage rock revival scene at the turn of the millennium, The Libertines were one of the bands that were dealt a rougher hand. Being overshadowed by bigger names like The Strokes and The White Stripes during their operating years, tensions within the band would result in their breakup in 2004, and their memory would be painted over by the torrent of new British indie rock bands a year later. For those who still held memories of the short-lived band, however, they would always wonder how much more The Libertines could've done if they had just stuck together. But as if there's something in the air this year that's causing dormant bands to make a return - from Sleater-Kinney and Refused, to fellow Britrockers Blur - The Libertines also received a revitalizing breath, lifting them out of their long-defunct status and back into the studio, making their long-awaited third album, "Anthems for Doomed Youth."
Having been away for so long, The Libertines re-enter their former music scene that has gone through substantial changes in the past several years. With the current road of British indie rock generally forking off into either a blues rock revival style (a la Arctic Monkeys) or a flashier, EDM-tinged contemporary rock (a la The Wombats), it's almost refreshing that "Anthems for Doomed Youth" refrains from being a dramatic metamorphosis to fit the trends of today's indie rock. Generally picking up where The Libertines left off sonically, their garage rock sound isn't as frenetic and punchy as it was back in the "Up the Bracket" days (cuts like "Fury of Chonburi" and "Glasgow Coma Scale Blues" pass the bar, whereas "Fame and Fortune" and "Belly of the Beast" flounder), but the album is more concerned with traveling beyond the raw garage rock gear that the band have already figured out.
After the awkward, half-hearted fits of instrumental experimentation in their 2004 self-titled album, the more substantial efforts to diversify their songwriting in "Anthems for Doomed Youth" are, for the most part, successful. Co-frontman Pete Doherty's vocals, which have always had a reggae-by-Sublime flair to them, are accentuated to further conjure that beach-evoking indie rock vibe in "Barbarians," "Heart of the Matter," and the reggae rock curveball "Gunga Din." Doherty and co-frontman Carl Barât also make an extensive effort to write songs in a slow-going ballad gear - something they rarely ever worked with in the original run of The Libertines - to mixed avail. While the gentle and melodic indie rock ballad "Anthem for Doomed Youth," the piano-driven ballad of "You're My Waterloo," and the wistful closer "Dead for Love" play their roles well, "Iceman" and "The Milkman's Horse" are duller results of this effort.
Lyrics — 8
Though Doherty and Barât have dabbled with this lyrical style in previous albums, the lyrical efforts in "Anthems for Doomed Youth" lives up to its name by continuing to dish out bouts of lyrics cynically framing the state of the younger generation. Their cautionary tales found in "Anthem for Doomed Youth," the struggling couple portrayed in "Iceman," or the cinematic tragedy of "Dead for Love" display a sense of pity towards said doomed youth, but the band also show a capacity for animosity towards them as well - taking a critical aim at the saturated British indie rock scene, the band take pot shots at both the flocking indie rock fanbase in "Barbarians" ("The melody's in 4/4 time / Get it right, and it rings true / And now they're coming out in droves") and the doe-eyed aspiring rockstars in "Fame and Fortune" ("Hold on to your dreams / However bleak it seems / The world it may not listen but the devil may care").
That satire in "Anthems for Doomed Youth" is only one byproduct of Doherty and Barât's use of uncloaked emotion for lyrical inspiration; the bigger byproduct is, as expected, rooted in the duo's personal experiences. Along with the dark and candid telling of Doherty's life as an addict in "Gunga Din" ("Got to find a vein, it's always the same / And a drink to ease the panic and suffering"), numerous songs refer to the flighty, destructive, but seemingly never-ending bond between Doherty and Barât. With "Glasgow Coma Scale Blues" touching on the cold war after the duo's fallout ("The only thing that kept us apart was your cold, unloving heart"), "Heart of the Matter" trying to own up to those vitriolic emotions ("So hold a light to my misery / But don't set it up in flames / Because only I can take the blame"), and "You're My Waterloo" professing their unconditional love for one another, "Anthems for Doomed Youth" ends up being the most revealing album The Libertines have ever made.
Overall Impression — 7
In similar fashion to the first run of The Libertines, where their contributions to the garage rock revival scene weren't astronomical, the band's return in "Anthems for Doomed Youth" isn't a grandstanding return or a groundbreaking moment for indie rock. But with the album being a humble effort of The Libertines progressing how they likely would have if they didn't break up twelve years ago, there's something to be said about how simple The Libertines can just pick up where they left off after so long and still sound natural. Combine that with the extensive amounts of revealing lyrics that generally fill in the blanks between the band's breakup and now, and "Anthems for Doomed Youth" makes for a substantial album for the band's catalog.