With the recent news that The Libertines have inked a new recording deal with Virgin EMI – their first move to a major after a career-long partnership with Rough Trade – it seems pretty much certain that after 10 long years, we’ll finally see a third studio instalment from the likely lads. The quartet have spent the summer proving they can still cut the mustard live. Pete finally seems to be genuinely kicking his old habits. The stars, it seems, are aligning for a new Libs record.
Carl Barat recently told NME the band have already started working on new material, with five songs “on the workbench”, but the group have also stressed their plans to dig some of their previous lost nuggets out of the woodwork too. Across their career, The Libertines amassed a goldmine of demos that found their way out via live shows or fan forum uploads (back when downloading was in its infancy), but never quite made it onto an album. Here are our pick of the best – maybe they’ll be ressurected for album three?
First recorded for ‘Legs 11’ – a set of early demos laid down around 2000 that showed the softer, more nostalgic side of the band before they decided they wanted a piece of The Strokes’ pie and upped the electrics – ‘Bucket Shop’ has since been wheeled out at a couple of the band’s comeback shows, hinting that there could be life in the ol’ fella yet. A call and response interplay of guitars, it primarily features Pete on lead vocals with Carl providing a disillusioned, embittered interlude.
‘You’re My Waterloo’
A ballad to rival their finest, ‘You’re My Waterloo’ is a huge two fingers up to anyone who ever questioned the band’s poetic chops. Full of old English references to Judy Garland and Tony Hancock and sepia-tinged couplets (“You see I’ve brought you flowers all collected from the Old Vic stage/ I’ve been sitting here for hours chasing these words across the page”) over sweet but never saccharine acoustic guitars, it’s basically The Libertines’ most romantic side encapsulated in one song.
‘Hooray For The 21st Century’
There might be something more familiar about this one. Originally another ‘Legs 11’ offering, this time a more punky, vitriolic affair that hinted more closely at where the band were headed, it also wound up being partially used elsewhere. The lyrics from Carl’s bridge were lifted wholesale and included on self-titled LP track ‘Narcissist’ four years later, albeit with a slight melodic tweak. Will that rule ‘Hooray…’ out for inclusion? Let’s hope not.
‘The Ballad Of Grimaldi’
‘…Grimaldi’ received something of an underwhelming release on Barat’s 2011 solo EP ‘Death Fires Burn At Night’, but the track actually originated far further back and with Doherty in tow. Now a live staple in The Libertines’ sets and featuring a classic, knees up romp of a finale, it would be fitting for the old favourite to finally have a proper LP outing.
‘Half Cocked Boy’
Recorded in 2003 and unofficially put online as part of a set of tracks dubbed ‘The French Sessions’, ‘Half Cocked Boy’s ambling Doherty-isms sound more like an early Babyshambles offering than standard Libs fare. But it’s this lo-fi quality that could lend itself well to a reworking. Up the contrast between Pete’s low key verses and Carl’s more vitriolic chorus and you’ve got the seeds of something special.
‘Love On The Dole’
“How many cups of wine will I half consume? Before people people realise they’ve rolled past my tomb,” laments Pete on this, another cut from the classic ‘Legs 11’ sessions. A cheeky description of a romantic, booze-soaked life off the grid away from “the boring classes”, you can almost picture the pair penning the track in the artistic squalor of their Bethnal Green HQ.
One of the band’s greatest tracks not to find its way on to a proper studio LP (although it was a b-side in 2002, and also included on a Japan-only import release), its ominous, needling guitar line parallels its determined, bruised mission statement lyrics. “I read every review / no-one’s got a fucking clue,” snarls Pete, referencing the quartet’s early failings. Plan A then, was early manager Banny Pootschi’s idea to up the energy and get The Libertines’ signed to Rough Trade. It was where, as in the song, they would “carve it into something new”. As history shows, it worked.
Later the title of Anthony Thornton’s band biography, ‘Bound Together’s sweetly acoustic detailing of a pair tied together by “love, drink and drugs” doesn’t exactly require too much of an imaginative stretch to decipher its meaning. Returning after a decade, it could work as a charming reminder of the inimitable yin/yang relationship that formed the heart of The Libertines – hopefully, with a little less of the drugs this time, though…
‘Breck Road Lover’
Probably the only song in history to make the line “she’s no scrubber” sound genuinely lovelorn, ‘Breck Road Lover’ does cobbled street, Dickensian romance as only The Libertines know how. Also features one of the finest lyrics in their whole canon: “If lust and despair are two bullets in the same gun, then we’ve been playing Russian roulette for far too long”. A perfect description of the ever-teetering nature of love.
Pete may have taken ‘Albion’ for his own on Babyshambles’ debut album, but the track was first written as a collaborative effort back in the happier days of The Libertines. The good ship Albion was always Pete and Carl’s fabled vessel that would journey them to Arcadia and ‘Albion’ was its theme tune. Rightfully returning the song to its original band would be the ultimate statement of togetherness – a central motif at the heart of the band, back to where it belongs.