Mojo (Publisher) - "There are several instant classics here."
Photographer: Roger Sargent.
It's hard to think of a more fitting title for the Libertines' third album than Anthems for Doomed Youth. After all, youth is destined to end quickly way or another, via either death or getting older. Pete Doherty, Carl Barât, and the rest of the band managed to survive their twenties, and in the 11 years since they've made an album, they seem to have gained the knowledge that you can't just rehash the past. Wisely, on Anthems they focus on where they are now: cautionary tales such as "Fame and Fortune" and "Iceman" come from the perspective of those who have already been through these kinds of crises. Musically speaking, Anthems for Doomed Youth is also more mature; lead single "Gunga Din" trades in slow-burning reggae-punk that is more considered and contemplative -- at least before it catches fire at the end -- than much of what the Libertines have done before. At times, the album sounds surprisingly tame, thanks in part to Jake Gosling's manicured production; that the Libertines chose a former One Direction collaborator is another reminder of how far removed they are from the early 2000s, when they worked with Mick Jones. But for every moment that could use a little more grit, like "Belly of the Beast," there are more that make the album's subdued sound a strength. The reflective, self-referential title track proves that the Libertines' gift for mythologizing hasn't gone anywhere, while "Dead for Love" and "You're My Waterloo" -- which the band has had in its pocket since 1999 -- boast a polish and grandeur that they didn't always have time for back in the day. Similarly, the tempo shifts and complex structure of "Barbarians" are tight instead of shambling, suggesting that on a level of craft, they can even surpass where they've been. The Libs save Anthems' out-and-out rockers for last, almost as if they're conserving their energy: "Glasgow Coma Scale Blues" and "Fury of Chonburi" are the closest the band comes to reliving the good old days, while "Heart of the Matter" is an anthem fueled by venom. That the Libertines spend so little time revisiting their iconic sound on Anthems for Doomed Youth underscores that while it may have been sparked by how well-received their reunion concerts were, the bandmembers made this album primarily for themselves. In that regard, it's as authentic a return as a fan could ask for, and works equally well as a final chapter in the band's story or a new one. ~ Heather Phares