Yeah, so if you’re into The Libertines it’s undoubtedly A Good Thing that they’re back together again, especially since they don’t want to kill each other this time around. But what every die-hard fan really wants to know ahead of new album ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’’s September release, is whether they’ve come good – or butchered – some of the old classics which have been re-recorded to feature on the record’s deluxe version.
A little history lesson here for those who aren’t aware of what the likes of Legs 11, The Freewheelin’ Pete Doherty and The Sailor Sessions even are: back in the day, The Libertines recorded practically everything they did and put most of it online for free, long before words like Spotify and YouTube existed. The concept of giving your own music away was, in short, mental and in hindsight, The Libs were the only prominent band to actively seize the power of community held by the internet – right in the wake of Metallica chastising their own fans for using Napster. Weirdly, that kind of makes them streaming pioneers.
While the band’s record label and management might have been left feeling uneasy at this brazen approach of self-promotion, the fans lapped it up – swapping, covering and devouring the hundreds of demos, alternate versions, studio outtakes and live bootlegs that peppered the net. Aesthetically, it felt a bit like if The Beatles had released their rarities collection Anthology right after Sgt Peppers – rather than waiting three long decades.
So, when it was announced that four of these much-loved old songs – ‘Love On The Dole’, ‘Bucket Shop’, ‘Lust Of The Libertines’ and ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ – had been re-recorded by the band while they were in Thailand making the new album, it was met with a sense of unease from some quarters. Should they really be fucking with their legacy?
Each of the four tracks is included on the extended, deluxe version of the album, and here’s a world premiere of a clip of one. Originally recorded around 2000 when The Libertines were still a fey, acoustic-based act, it’s ‘Bucket Shop’ – the 2015 version:
Apparently recorded live, it’s way punkier than the original, which had a Kinks feel to it and a nasty-sounding Pete vocal in the verses. Here in 2015, Carl sounds the angrier than the two.
Another lost track, ‘Love On The Dole’, is given a similarly bolshie makeover, with the fuzz turned up to ten and the middle 8 changed completely, substituting the swing for something that borders on reggae. Lyrically, it’s a song that’s up there with the band’s best, containing one of Pete’s coolest lines: “Up in my dust & gloom I burn my secrets to keep me warm”.
‘Lust Of The Libertines’ is where things really get interesting. Starting with a minute of in-studio banter between the band, it’s just cool to hear them in such good spirits again. It proves that the charisma really is still there. When they finally do get going on the track, it’s drummer Gary Powell who transforms things, turning it into a full on ska workout. Whoever’s on lead guitar – I’m guessing Pete – also plays an absolute blinder… until about two thirds of the way through, that is, when it all goes to pot and Carl, on lead vocals, collapses into a fit of giggles. It’s kind of similar to this, from The Beatles’ Anthology, and every bit as endearing.
The Libs’ round things off with ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, which they already nailed as the B-side to ‘Time For Heroes’ back in 2003. Do they trump that version? I’m not choosing… But, like ‘Lust Of The Libertines’, it’s got great spirit. And, really, aside from their very own spruced-up Anthology collection (which someone really should think about releasing…), what could be better than recapturing that?
For old time’s sake, here’s the pre-Rough Trade, pre-distortion, pre-everything ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’, with Pete sounding positively angelic and the rest of the band (completed by old man jazz drummer Paul Dufour) on amazing three-part harmony. They don’t make ’em like this anymore: