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Libertines: All Quiet On the Eastern Esplanade review

Mixing maturer sounds with familiar playfulness, The Libertines prove there’s life in the old dog yet.

That The Libertines are still producing music 20 years after their initial break up is nothing short of a miracle. Pete Doherty and Carl Barat’s relationship deteriorated so much during the process of their second album the band’s future appeared beyond repair. But then there was a couple of sporadic reunions, culminating in the patchy Anthems For Doomed Youth (2015).

Nine years on and cause for celebration then that All Quiet The Eastern Esplanade is a gratifying fourth, sonically explorative while maintaining swashbuckling indie nostalgia.

An elegance engulfs many of these tracks, enjoying a wider range of stylistic influences than before. A smoky, jazz club vibe surrounds ‘Baron’s Claw’, they boldly sample Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on violent crime aftermath tale ‘Night Of The Hunter’, while lush ballad ‘Man With the Melody’ allows all four members their chance on lead vocals for the first time.

Back in the day, The Libertines romanticised a forgotten version of good ol’ blighty and two decades on they’ve refreshed such references towards contemporary social issues. On eerie album highlight ‘Shiver’ their emotions are confused in the aftermath of the Queen’s death, while The Doors-esque ‘Merry Old England’ provides a welcome to modern-day immigrants. And ‘Mustangs’ has Barat sing about an alcoholic “Juicy Couture tracksuit” wearing mother called Traci.

That’s not to say their chaotic style has been completely abandoned. ‘Run Run Run’ is an infectious and charming intro, while ‘Oh Sh**’ finds us on the same sweaty dancefloor as ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’. Earlier, ‘I Have A Friend’ achieves similar with spiky guitar lines and sharp Doherty lyricism: ”No you don’t know you’re born, free speech and free porn

All Quiet The Eastern Esplanade won’t rival their early legend, but mixing maturer sounds with familiar playfulness, The Libertines prove there’s life in the old dog yet.


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