Why the Libertines matter: a brief history

Perhaps one of the greatest rock and roll stories to ever be told, the turbulent tale of the Libertines is one filled with fights, substance abuse, but also great romance and friendship. But the story of this ever-popular English musical act rarely finds its way to the ears and eyes of listeners west of the Atlantic. This is an unfortunate reality for many English bands, whom all but a small handful fail to gain recognition in North America. When the Libertines first came on the scene in 2002 with their debut album Up the Bracket and later their self titled sophomore album in 2004, the British press ate it up. As far as the media is concerned, Pete Doherty and Carl Barat are the Libertines. The two men have fronted the band since its inception and are credited for the lion’s share of the songwriting. The band’s fan base steadily grew as well, likely due in part to their reputation of having no barriers between themselves and their listeners, going as far as hosting a series of guerilla gigs in Doherty and Barat’s home, and inviting fans to take items from the home as souvenirs. By mid 2004, Doherty and Barat’s relationship had soured, mainly because of Doherty’s battle with crack addiction, and the Libertines fizzled out.


But the story of the Libertines does not end there. The next 10 years consisted of Doherty and Barat forming their own bands, Doherty with the crack-fueled Babyshambles, and Barat forming the punky Dirty Pretty Things. The most attention the Libertines ever received from North America was in 2005 when Doherty began a two-year relationship with supermodel Kate Moss. The band had a few one-off reunions over the decade, but with Doherty’s lingering drug problem the partnership with Barat could not be reconciled. In 2014, the band announced they would be reuniting to headline a show at Hyde Park in London. Later that year Doherty announced he was entering a drug rehabilitation program in Thailand, and by January 2015 he announced that he had completed the program and had joined the Libertines in recording new material for an album.


On Sept. 11, 2015, the Libertines released Anthems for Doomed Youth, their first studio album in over 10 years. Over the years since their dissolution, the rock and roll mythology created by the Libertines has continued to expand their fan base in England, but in North America the new album fails to chart whatsoever. Their sound has always been compared to the Clash, and the new album still fits this comparison quite nicely. The album is excellent. Fans have always been captivated by the poetic lyrics from Doherty and Barat, who take inspiration from romantic poets such as Lord Byron and William Blake. The first single released for Anthems for Doomed Youth was “Gunga Din”, which borrows its name from a Ruyard Kipling poem. The song goes into Barat and Doherty’s past issues with addiction, being strung out on drugs and booze, and the road to recovery. Many Libertines songs deal with addiction, broken relationships, as well as various other shenanigans and shady situations, and paired with catchy guitar lines and vocal melodies, it’s an appealing combination. The other part of the Libertines major appeal is their live show. While many bands today give a very tidy, choreographed live performance, the Libertines have always been the exact opposite, and this has always been something that comes through in the band’s sound. The story of the Libertines is potentially one of the greatest rock and roll stories of all time, and this is a story that needs to be told. So if you gravitate toward the sounds of White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, the Strokes or the Clash, the Libertines may be for you. So head out to your local record store and pick up a copy of ANY of their material – you cannot go wrong


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