Since 2002’s Up The Bracket (and you can include Babyshambles if you want to reach further backward), audiences have been waiting for Pete Doherty’s Libertines to become the great white garage guitar-pop hope that loomed forever as a promise for both his fans and those of longtime Lib partner Carl Barât. Barât’s brotherhood aside, you could look into Doherty’s under-publicized (and rarely discussed) 2009 solo album Grace/Wastelands as evidence that the Cockney-accented singer, shambolic melody-maker and street urchin-smart lyricist could do anything he set his mind to when thinking and acting clearly (or clearer).
So, with 11 years between Libertines efforts, here is the aptly titled Anthems For Doomed Youth—an album where “Fame And Fortune” is hardly ever fortunate, the “Belly Of The Beast” is bloated from its too-rich intake, and the “Iceman” cometh hard, cold yet with the witty, wily honor of its theatrical predecessor. The guitar sound shared by Doherty and Barât is still the ghostliest space-garage-dub tone since the Specials’ second album; a hollow, spidery, punk flange that stinks of art-reggae ambience (see the slash and skank of “Gunga Din” for the best lesson in that regard) in accordance with the Libertines’ nice-guy rhythm section, drummer Gary Powell and bassist John Hassall.
The same can be said of Doherty and Barât’s vocals, as they weave between each other’s snotty low tones like Fiats on a race track. Their boyish charms are punctuated by sneers and jeers, leaving the listener clueless as to who ends where the other begins. That sort of daft mystery makes Anthems—and the Libertines in general—worth its weight in dope and gold.