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The Libertines: ‘All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade’ review

The nine year wait is finally over! The Libertines have released new album ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’.

As a household name of the indie genre, it’s hard to believe that in over 20 years of existence, this is only the fourth Libetines studio album. We’ve witnessed the havoc and chaos of ‘Up the Bracket’ and the eponymous ‘The Libertines’ to a completely different and much more settled era 11 years alter with ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’, with many thinking due to the chaotic nature of the Libertines this would be their last.


However, times have changed; with this record produced in the Albion Rooms they have found something to unite over and guitarist Carl Barat insists they are “all facing the same direction”. So, here we are 3000 days later with something completely new to feast upon.


This time around the band have pushed the boat out a little further with some experimentation and even using a theremin! However, these are subtle changes not as drastic as a ‘AM’ to ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ type transition! There are still a few classic Libertines tunes tucked away in there.


This has got us all asking, does the newest effort match up to the good old days and does the Albion still sail on course?


Album opener and lead single ‘Run Run Run’ is a true traditional Libertines tune that allows you to quickly board the album,  with blatant references to their early years with “It’s a lifelong project of a life on the lash”. In a solid opener they attempt to confront the past with a song that Pete recently revealed was his favourite Libs tracks of all time.


This is followed by ‘Mustangs’, a tale of a lady called Tracy who is bored of her monotonous life, constantly daydreaming about the freedom and riding mustangs into the night. At first, I found this song rather underwhelming with it coming just after the thrills of ‘Run Run Run’. That was until I really started to pay attention to the outro/final verse where a set of female vocals are welded into the song alongside Carl’s final piece. Something we’ve not ever seen from a Libertines song before, but it certainly pays off on this track.


We are then greeted with the screeching guitars of ‘I Have a Friend’ in a more conventional Libertines fashion; a song aims to bring attention to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine with acute remarks scattered within.


Credit: Ed Cooke

‘Merry Old England’ is also a song with current topical relevance. It perfectly encapsulates the current situation with the ongoing migrant crisis. It’s clear as day that ‘Merry’ is a satirical view of a country that at the moment is being ripped apart by culture wars. The song also explores the reality of the situation of migrants when they do eventually arrive “Did they give you everything that you dreamed of, a B&B and vouchers for three square”.


The tempo is then wound right down for ‘Man With The Melody’; the first Libertines song to feature all members singing their own part. Pete, Carl and John take a verse each with Gary participating on a chorus. High pitched piano notes offer a moment of calm from the relentless pace of the first half of the album on a track that appears to have actually been written years ago as Pete recalled “it was John’s song, we took it apart, stripped it down and put it back together”.


Now onto ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’, wait hang on a minute, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d managed to sneak it onto the album. The opening guitar riff of the actual song ‘Oh Shit’ is practically identical. This track is again more classic Libertines with an upbeat light-hearted tone but with more mentions of their troubled past “we need some money, just enough to get us by”.


Onto ‘Night Of The Hunter’ and this is perhaps the biggest hint of where these guys are currently in their lives. This track is beautifully crafted with a dark overlying tone, documenting someone’s final moments before arrest. Featuring a theremin that Pete revealed took a whole day to tune, this track is on a different planet compared to the mayhem of ‘Up The Bracket’ but with its polished and precise nature, this brave new world is something to savour.


‘Barrons Claw’ is unlike any other Libertines song, with more piano, a sprinkle of trumpets and a bassline that bobs along, this track is a real outlier on the album.


The death of Queen Elizabeth II and the Coronation of King Charles were a deep and symbolic moment for many in this country and it clearly found its way into the minds of the band in this next song with the lyrics “the old girls gone away” and “another coronation day”. In ‘Shiver’, this is their acknowledgement of it all.


The penultimate track is ‘Be Young’, and you could have guessed it, a song about celebrating youth with lines like “I’ll be young, fall in love”. It binds orthodox Libertines guitar riffs with a smoothly executed midtrack transition to ska.


Closing the album ‘Songs They Never Play On The Radio’ is a slow singalong that Pete originally used to perform solo on stage with an acoustic guitar over 15 years ago. Now reworked with the full band and some violins, it is a fitting conclusion to the album. The song has quite the unusual ending with background chatter and a wolf howling, perhaps an intentional throwback to the blatant imperfections of their early material.


‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’ is a measure of the maturity and stability the band have found in recent times not only has a collective unit but as individuals too. The drugs have stopped but the music has kept playing and now it’s more refined than ever.


So yes, the Albion still sails on course and it’ll take a hell of a lot to ever sink this band.

 

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