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Alternative & Indie - Released October 27, 2014 | Rough Trade

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The British press seems eager to add the Libertines to the canon of great British bands as soon as possible. Not just because their music carries on the traditions of previous greats from the Beatles to the Clash, or because of their involvement with already-legendary figures like Alan McGee, Mick Jones, and Geoff Travis, or because their peers in the British music scene just weren't as interesting to cover, but because the band's future always teeters between dazzling and dangerously uncertain. At the very least, they're guaranteed a spot in the history books as one of the most volatile bands ever to come out of the U.K. McGee, who has dealt with such notoriously difficult personalities as Oasis' pugnacious Gallagher brothers and My Bloody Valentine's hyperperfectionistic genius Kevin Shields, has called the Libertines "the most extreme band I've worked with." Co-frontman Pete Doherty's stints in and out of rehab, jail, and the band itself lend the Libertines an unpredictability that's both brilliant and frustrating. The Libertines' self-titled second album -- which was released when Doherty was out of the band, awaiting trial after pleading guilty to possession of an offensive weapon, a switchblade he picked up after fleeing rehab in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand -- ends up being frustratingly brilliant: it's not a pathetic last gasp from a band crumbling under the weight of its troubles, but it's not entirely a rallying, rousing cry in the face of these problems, either. Yet, considering how shaky Doherty's own existence, much less the Libertines', often seems, it's more than a little remarkable that as much of this album works as it does. Both Doherty and Carl Barat have grown as songwriters since Up the Bracket, and this album's best songs use Doherty's problems and the duo's strained camaraderie as fodder. On "Campaign of Hate," the single "Can't Stand Me Now," and "What Became of the Likely Lads?" they find common ground and sardonic fun in being inelegantly wasted: "Blood runs thick/We're thick as thieves." But most of The Libertines' strongest moments aren't necessarily its catchiest ones; rave-ups like "The Narcissist," a putdown of the "professionally trendy," and "Arbeit Macht Frei" fall flat, and "Don't Be Shy" is a draggy mess made more uncomfortable by Doherty's stumbling, burned-out vocals. However, when the Libertines don't pretend that the party is still going on and give in to their collective hangover, the album really takes shape. Interestingly enough, the band's darkest moments shine the brightest, and The Libertines' most ambitious songs seem to have been the easiest for them to pull off. "Last Post on the Bugle," "The Man Who Would Be King," and "The Saga" have a martial intensity and plenty of angry, self-aware lyrics ("You dig my bed/I dig my grave"), but these songs, "Tomblands," and "Road to Ruin" still feel more effortless than the album's stabs at lightheartedness. Ever since their first single, "What a Waster," the Libertines' experience has been about life imitating art imitating life, and The Libertines is an accurate, sometimes uncomfortable reflection of the band at this point: more scattered and unstable than they were on Up the Bracket, but also more ambitious and more interesting. If they can somehow hold themselves together without losing the tension that gives them their spark, The Libertines might prove that the people who called them "the most important band of their generation" weren't being hasty after all. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 30, 2002 | Rough Trade

The first British band to rival the garage rock revival sparked by the Strokes and White Stripes in the U.S., the Hives in Sweden, and the Datsuns in, er, New Zealand, the Libertines burst onto the scene with Up the Bracket, a debut album so confident and consistent that the easiest way to describe it is 2002's answer to Is This It. That's not just because singer/guitarist Pete Doherty's slurred, husky vocals sound like Julian Casablancas' with the added bonus of a fetching Cockney accent (or that both groups share the same tousled, denim-clad fashion sense); virtually every song on Up the Bracket is chock-full of the same kind of bouncy, aggressive guitars, expressive, economic drums, and irresistible hooks that made the Strokes' debut almost too catchy for the band's credibility. However, the resemblance is probably due more to the constant trading of musical ideas between the States and the U.K. than to bandwagon-jumping -- the Strokes' sound owes as much to Britpop sensations like Supergrass (who had the Libertines as their opening band on their 2002 U.K. tour) and Elastica as it does to American influences like the Stooges and the Velvet Underground. Likewise, the Libertines play fast and loose with four decades' worth of British rock history, mixing bits and bobs of British Invasion, mod, punk, and Britpop with the sound of their contemporaries. On paper it sounds horribly calculated, but (also like the Strokes' debut) in practice it's at once fresh and familiar. Mick Jones' warm, not-too-rough, and not-too-polished production both emphasizes the pedigree of their sound and the originality of it: on songs like "Vertigo," "Death on the Stairs," and the excellent "Boys in the Band," the guitars switch between Merseybeat chime and a garagey churn as the vocals range from punk snarls to pristine British Invasion harmonies. Capable of bittersweet beauty on the folky, Beatlesque "Radio America" and pure attitude on "Horrorshow," the Libertines really shine when they mix the two approaches and let their ambitions lead the way. "Did you see the stylish kids in the riot?" begins "Time for Heroes," an oddly poetic mix of love and war that recalls the band's spiritual and sonic forefathers the Clash; "The Good Old Days" blends jazzy verses, martial choruses, and lyrics like "It's not about tenements and needles and all the evils in their eyes and the backs of their minds." On songs like these, "Tell the King," and "Up the Bracket," the group not only outdoes most of its peers but begins to reach the greatness of the Kinks, the Jam, and all the rest of the groups whose brilliant melodic abilities and satirical looks at British society paved the way. Though the album is a bit short at 36 minutes, that's long enough to make it a brilliant debut; the worst you can say about its weakest tracks is that they're really solid and catchy. Punk poets, lagered-up lads, London hipsters -- the Libertines play many different roles on Up the Bracket, all of which suit them to a tee. At this point in their career they're not as overhyped as many of their contemporaries, so enjoy them while they're still fresh. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 30, 2004 | Rough Trade

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 3, 2002 | Rough Trade

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 30, 2007 | Rough Trade

Alternative & Indie - Released September 6, 2015 | Concert Live Ltd

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 9, 2004 | Rough Trade

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Rock - Released September 4, 2015 | Virgin EMI

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 9, 2004 | Rough Trade

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 25, 2004 | Rough Trade

The What Became of the Likely Lads EP serves as a ramshackle, bittersweet footnote to the roller coaster saga of the Libertines. Nearly as self-reflexive as the band's second album was, the EP is bookended by two versions of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat's love/hate song to their friendship and camaraderie; in between are appropriately shambling -- but somehow captivating -- live tracks from their June 3, 2004, Brixton date, one of the last dates the band played with Doherty before his drug and legal problems made Barat decide that the Libertines had to go on (if only briefly) without Pete. The live versions of "Skag and Bone Man" and "Boys in the Band" are particularly electrifying, capturing the almost-falling-apart tension of the band's performances. Mick Jones' mix of "Don't Look Back Into the Sun" cements the EP's feeling of being a (mostly) fond farewell. Though the Libertines' goodbye release feels a little contrived, it's still pretty affecting -- and shows, once again, how much of the band's art reflected their life, and vice versa. ~ Heather Phares
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 25, 2004 | Rough Trade

The What Became of the Likely Lads EP serves as a ramshackle, bittersweet footnote to the roller coaster saga of the Libertines. Nearly as self-reflexive as the band's second album was, the EP is bookended by two versions of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat's love/hate song to their friendship and camaraderie; in between are appropriately shambling -- but somehow captivating -- live tracks from their June 3, 2004, Brixton date, one of the last dates the band played with Doherty before his drug and legal problems made Barat decide that the Libertines had to go on (if only briefly) without Pete. The live versions of "Skag and Bone Man" and "Boys in the Band" are particularly electrifying, capturing the almost-falling-apart tension of the band's performances. Mick Jones' mix of "Don't Look Back Into the Sun" cements the EP's feeling of being a (mostly) fond farewell. Though the Libertines' goodbye release feels a little contrived, it's still pretty affecting -- and shows, once again, how much of the band's art reflected their life, and vice versa. ~ Heather Phares
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Rock - Released September 4, 2015 | Virgin EMI

It's hard to think of a more fitting title for the Libertines' third album than Anthems for Doomed Youth. After all, youth is destined to end quickly way or another, via either death or getting older. Pete Doherty, Carl Barât, and the rest of the band managed to survive their twenties, and in the 11 years since they've made an album, they seem to have gained the knowledge that you can't just rehash the past. Wisely, on Anthems they focus on where they are now: cautionary tales such as "Fame and Fortune" and "Iceman" come from the perspective of those who have already been through these kinds of crises. Musically speaking, Anthems for Doomed Youth is also more mature; lead single "Gunga Din" trades in slow-burning reggae-punk that is more considered and contemplative -- at least before it catches fire at the end -- than much of what the Libertines have done before. At times, the album sounds surprisingly tame, thanks in part to Jake Gosling's manicured production; that the Libertines chose a former One Direction collaborator is another reminder of how far removed they are from the early 2000s, when they worked with Mick Jones. But for every moment that could use a little more grit, like "Belly of the Beast," there are more that make the album's subdued sound a strength. The reflective, self-referential title track proves that the Libertines' gift for mythologizing hasn't gone anywhere, while "Dead for Love" and "You're My Waterloo" -- which the band has had in its pocket since 1999 -- boast a polish and grandeur that they didn't always have time for back in the day. Similarly, the tempo shifts and complex structure of "Barbarians" are tight instead of shambling, suggesting that on a level of craft, they can even surpass where they've been. The Libs save Anthems' out-and-out rockers for last, almost as if they're conserving their energy: "Glasgow Coma Scale Blues" and "Fury of Chonburi" are the closest the band comes to reliving the good old days, while "Heart of the Matter" is an anthem fueled by venom. That the Libertines spend so little time revisiting their iconic sound on Anthems for Doomed Youth underscores that while it may have been sparked by how well-received their reunion concerts were, the bandmembers made this album primarily for themselves. In that regard, it's as authentic a return as a fan could ask for, and works equally well as a final chapter in the band's story or a new one. ~ Heather Phares