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The Libertines "All Quiet On the Eastern Esplanade" - Review

5/10

The Libertines "All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade" - Review

Now nine years since the last Libertines studio album and a staggering 22 years since their explosive debut album shook the indie rock landscape, The Libertines have now dropped their fourth studio album All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade. Preceded by a handful of singles released to the streaming world, the entire album dropped this past week, exposing an unexpected mellower side of the historically brash rockers.


Certain tracks like Oh Shit, and Run, Run, Run delved deeper into the perfected sound of The Libertines, whereas Baron’s Claw and Man With the Melody likely led to a bit of head-scratching. People change, and equally do songwriting styles and what will interest bands, and after nine album-free years, I guess Carl Barât and Pete Doherty have found a newfound interest in that direction. If any listeners are like me though, that’s certainly unexpected and not really wanted, to be frank. The vulnerable lyrics, backed by modest guitar output on the somber tracks just don’t sound like The Libertines but hey, like I said, interests change. To their credit, the mellow track Night of the Hunter is a pretty intriguing track, loaded with self-reflective and thought-provoking lyrics, although the relatively minimal guitar use still leaves some to be desired.

Electrifying 2002-esque guitar work on Be Young and I Have a Friend ought to really excite longtime fans, nostalgic for that early 2000s post-punk-revival sound that The Libertines essentially introduced to British music. On that note, Be Young is a damn good tune; a cool Clash, London Calling-era reggae breakdown turns a good tune into a great one, the guys nailed it. I would assume that’s going to be one of the deep cut tunes from the record which might gain a little bit of traction as listeners likely lose interest with some of the singles, especially the softer ones. Just like Be Young, I Have a Friend nods back to the Up the Bracket sound which propelled them to British superstardom, fast-paced, angsty, energetic, and sonically encapsulating, at least for those who lean towards the up-tempo, louder rock sound.


It’s certainly surprising how comfortable Barât and Doherty seemingly feel, exposing themselves as vocalists, relying much less on their guitars than they have in the past, but they unapologetically did it and delivered. The sound just kind of missed the mark, and this probably won’t ever be a very memorable album, and certainly one that’s not going to hold a significant place in their discography. When bands hit a level of influence and commercial success, like The Libertines did, you just end up competing against your previous releases because they were so good. Not for nothing, Up the Bracket is one of the greatest indie albums of all time, and that’s what their legacy is going to be, All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade won’t be talked about in the same light, and Libertines fans are going to want to hear Up the Bracket tunes much more than these.

Whether The Libertines are shooting for long-term relevance, scattered across 20 years of music, or are just releasing the music they want to write (probably the latter), their legacy is probably already made for them. The newest LP has its moments, but it’s definitely worse than their last album Anthems For Doomed Youth, and not even in the conversation with the first two. So much of this album leans into their stylistic weaknesses more so than their strengths and just resulted in a bunch of uninteresting songs, with some innate, well-earned brilliance sprinkled throughout.


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