Monday, 27 July 2015

The Albion sales on course...

Going to try my hand at some musings on music today, specifically The Libertines.

For many years I've only really listened to guitar music. And I do hate it when people describe their taste as 'indie' because it isn't a genre like Jazz or Rock. Surely indie just means that the artist is signed to a non major label? I'd have been okay calling The Libertines indie when they were signed to the independent label Rough Trade, but since 2014 they've been with Virgin EMI - not remotely indie. I am digressing hugely but perhaps I should bring back the term 'alternative' instead. 

Rough Trade: one of my favourite record labels (and favourite haunt) on earth 

Anyway, I wasn't truly a fan of The Libertines until just this past week actually. But they had always been there as main player in the music scene I found myself invested in. For years I've listened exclusively to Xfm so I liked The Libertines, Babyshambles, Dirty Pretty Things as well as Carl and Pete's solo stuff. My elder brother had their posters, saw Dirty Pretty Things in Manchester and The Libertines when they reformed for Leeds/Reading a few years back. I even bought my brother Carl's Three Penny Memoir when it came out in 2010. In some respects I am over a decade late jumping on to the band wagon, but as I was 7 years old when they broke on to the scene I hope I can be forgiven! I wasn't even into McFly in year 2... But with their second coming I am finally along for the ride. 

I distinctly recall my brother claiming he was going to get 'Libertine' tattooed on himself. I'm still waiting for it...


The first single in 11 years was never going to be easy. Their return could have been a train wreck - and you probably would have still loved it - but Gunga Din is genuinely brilliant. If this had been their debut single and there was non of what came before, I would still be very excited. This is not a half arsed comback, the lads aren't hell bent on money spinning and reminiscing. Gunga Din is a belter of a single in its own right. It got echoes of The Clash, slightly ska-influenced and a chorus that'll hang around in your mind for days. Like the the old stuff - heavy, ambling and just a bit chaotic. It doesn't sound polished, and for a while that bothered me but now I dig the raucous spirit of it all. The new material is showing a continuance of the influence literature and poetry makes on the band's song writing: the song title Gunga Din is taken from the poem by Rudyard Kipling, and the album title Anthems for Doomed Youth comes from Wilfred Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth. Carl and Pete have always been a bit different to the average band member. How many lads at the NME Awards would think to recite Suicide In The Trenches as an acceptance speech?



As a band the Libertines are still so authentic with this undoubtedly British rock vibe - mythic and mental. Riotous, intriguing, charming. When I read Carl's memoir I found myself romanticizing the back story. When I thought about it, there's nothing romantic about sleeping rough on the streets of Paris, or living with some rogue characters in a basement, or being so wasted you can't remember whole days. And yet I have romanticized the whole thing out of all proportion and will continue to do so because that is what makes The Libertines so unique. They've always been iconic: from those red army jackets, to the on stage antics and mic sharing. It's remarkable how fast they blew up and equally how fast it all fell apart. But I feel as though it was a self fulfilling prophecy. NME way back in 2002 once asked Pete and Carl 'what band got it right?':

Pete: 'It doesn’t exist. Look at the Sex Pistols, they split up and there’s bitterness and sourness.’

Carl: 'that’s not the same as us.’

Pete: 'Of course it’s the same. That’s how it’s going to be with me and you. It’s going to turn sour.’

Carl: 'Why are you saying it’s going to turn sour?’

Pete: 'I think it’s going to turn sour and we’ll get back together.


I think there are somethings that are just meant to be. It was either top of the world or bottom of the canal. 

Thankfully, Bilo and Biggles are once more united on the good ship Albion. Arcadia matters just as much as ever.


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