It’s been quite a few weeks for The Libertines, from their spectacular warm-up shows in Glasgow to their triumphant return at London’s Hyde Park. You can get the whole inside story in this week’s NME. Writer Matt Wilkinson and photographers Roger Sargent and Andy Hughes got unparalleled access to The Libertines as they begin their 2014 comeback.
From driving around Glasgow in Pete Doherty’s beloved 1986 caravan (check him at the wheel, below), to shooting the boys as they tumble off stage following the first of two triumphant gigs at Glasgow’s Barrowland venue – we were there every step of the way. Hell, Pete even took the time to review the comeback FOR us, penning his thoughts on a typewriter from the bath of his Glasgow hotel room one morning before stuffing the page into Matt’s hand with the express intent that “NME print this in full” in the next possible issue.
We obliged, and this week’s feature is, if we say so ourselves, essential reading for anybody with even a passing interest in The Libertines.
One of the most important things we cover is the subject of a new Libertines album. Both Pete and Carl confirm that this will happen – the latter sets a release date of 2015, while Pete says he wants the band to write and record it in October and November. But is it a good idea? We asked a panel of Libs heavies to give us their thoughts…
Libertines official biographer, ex-NME writer and now head of digital content at the BFI
The Libertines should definitely make a new album. Yeah, there’s history and the ‘story’ (god knows I know a bit about that) and we love them for that… But bigger – much bigger – than all of that is the songwriting partnership and the band playing as a unit. It needs a chance to become the spotlight again. The potential has always been there to make an enduring classic, so let’s give them the opportunity.
Wolf Alice, drummer
They are undeniably one of the most influential bands the UK has produced. If I was them, I would simply have to make a new album. As songwriters it must be in their blood. Anyone in a band could relate to the thrill of getting back together and making some noise. Should this [the gigs] end up being a cash cow then they can kiss goodbye to respectability more so than if they came back with a shit album. Give it a go, boys!
NME, Noisey and The Guardian
I’d be up for a new album, but I think Pete and Carl have to be prepared to be honest – to write songs about what fuck ups they’ve all become – to look at where it went wrong and how everything they’d dreamed of has died. They can’t just keep banging on about Albion when clearly what they were trying to achieve turned to shit. The worst thing they could do is make something that didn’t get involved in any realities and just sounded like ‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’. One other thing they should engage with, I recently felt the wrath of some Libertines fans and was shocked to see how many were proud UKIP supporters or members, incorporating the Libs idea of Albion into their own concepts of a “once great” British empire. I think a new record needs to explicitly show how the Libs are divorced from that.
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Ex-Cooper Temple Clause man who also played with Carl in Dirty Pretty Things, now at Quietus Management
The past couple of weeks have proved that they still have a huge place in an awful lot of people’s hearts, which is incredible for a band who only released two albums. That’s based on a unique chemistry that, quite naturally, has changed as their individual lives have moved on. Or not moved on. That chemistry was a huge part of their songwriting so will they be able to pull it off? The talent is probably still there but is the spark? On top of that, there are different pressures around them that might affect quality control, although they managed to get through that very well on the second album. Also, labels are far less inclined than they were to dish out cash to fund an album for anyone, let alone those that have previous for not being the most reliable in these stakes. We will see…
A fan who was there right at the start – as well as the recent Hyde Park comeback gig
They should definitely write a new album. When they split up first time around everything seemed unfinished, both in regards to the bands legacy and the music they’d written. There were loads of half written and incomplete songs out there, so it would be ace to see some of them rerecorded and given the release they deserve. I’m thinking it would veer more toward their melodic side, more like ‘Radio America’, ‘Legs XI’, ‘You’re My Waterloo’, ‘Smashing’, ‘Breck Road Lover’ and ‘Half-Cocked Boy’. Still punky, ramshackle and slapdash but with the poetic and melodic way out in front, on their sleeves, this time. Sort of taking what they hinted at with ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ right to the top of the charts.
NME New Bands Editor, writer of this week’s Libertines cover feature
While history dictates that these kind of reunion albums almost never stand up to their predecessors (hi Pixies, PIL, Suede, Verve, My Bloody Valentine), fuck it – The Libs should make a new one. Regardless of what his detractors might say, Pete’s back catalogue (both solo and with Babyshambles) more than stands up. His problem has always been that he needs someone to bounce off to really make things fly. That’s where Carl – always his most accomplished songwriting/studio partner – needs to come in. They can’t fake it though. They need the chemistry, and if it isn’t there then the fans will see straight through them. Similarly, it’s not 2003 anymore. Music has moved on and so have they as people. They’re mid-30s now and I’d question their ability to even try to sound as punk as they did back then. The need to adapt and not just recreate what’s gone before. Compare ‘The Clash’ to ‘Combat Rock’ – that’s what I’d be doing if I was in their position.
Part of The Libertines inner circle when they were on Rough Trade. Dean set up the infamous ‘Freedom gig’ the band played at Chatham’s Tap’n’Tin venue the day Pete got out of prison for burgling Carl’s flat in 2003
Of course they should do a new album! It’s all about unfinished business. Hyde Park proved that even after all this time they’ve still got that live energy and magic that not a lot of bands have or will ever have. They have what it takes to write great records – even the difficult second album was good. The boys are all in a better place now, more grown up and able to see things more clearly. What will it sound like? I have no idea but here’s £10 on it being brilliant.
Fat White Family
Perhaps the one new band who in 2014 come closest to The Libertines’ sense of depraved unity
The Fat White Family could not care less about the reunion of The Libertines.