The Libertines were adored for their louche, bedraggled world-view — equal parts Lord Byron and early Rolling Stones — as much as for their often workaday indie rock.
Indeed, 11 years from their second record, it’s that cultivated laddishness, 50% football hooligan, 50% weeping undergraduate poet, that endures, the music taking a distinct second place.
In that context, the quality of the Londoners’ third album is overwhelmingly irrelevant — more important is that the old gang is back together, the bromantic power coupling of Pete Doherty and Carl Barât providing the group with its focus and raison d’être.
Anthems For Doomed Youth was recorded in Thailand, with Doherty arriving, as per Barât’s insistence, straight from rehab (his substance abuse having triggered the downfall of the quartet back in the 2000s).
The sense of musicians starting over is palpable and the songs are hazier, more strung-out than before.
Far from delivering a kiss of irrelevance, the seeming absence of urgency is liberating.
With Doherty and Barât’s vocals intertwining and occasionally indistinguishable, ‘Barbarians’ (a reworking of an older piece from Barât’s project, Babyshambles) blends upbeat tempos and a jerking bass, while Doherty slips into confessional setting on ‘Heart Of The Matter’ (“with all the battering it’s taken/I’m surprised that it’s still ticking”).
In his late 30s, he is perhaps old enough to have a premonition of regret over half a lifetime of excess and notoriety.
Showcasing both the best and worst of the band — that singular mix of the arch and the shaggy — Anthems For Doomed Youth is unlikely to win over Libertines agnostics.
For long-suffering fans, though, it will prove (just about) worth the wait.
At the least, it serves as a nostalgic throwback to the time when rock music embodied the zeitgeist rather than quivering in the shadow of Taylor Swift and pals.