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The Libertines ‘All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade’ review: a mellowing of The Likely Lads

It's classic Libs, but from the renewed perspective of four middle aged blokes.

4.0 rating

By Nick Reilly

The Libertines (Picture: Ed Cooke)

Serenity. Peace and Love. They’re all adjectives you wouldn’t associate with the famously tumultuous fortunes of The Libertines, but on their fourth album it seems like the Likely Lads have finally mellowed. Peter Doherty, a mainstay of the noughties tabloids, has found something close to domestic bliss after hunkering down in France with his wife and young child and ditching hard drugs for, according to the man himself, posh cheese instead. The rest of the band, meanwhile, have been ploughing their efforts into The Albion Rooms, their Margate hotel and recording studio. Carl Barât told Rolling Stone UK last year: “At this time, we’re in the best possible place I think we can be.”

As a result of all of the above, All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade is a complete riot which sees them largely leaning into the ramshackle charm of their early highs – even if it’s tempered with the eyes of four blokes in their forties.

On the lead single ‘Run Run Run’, the group firmly look back at their noughties infamy, crying over garage rock guitars: “You’d better run, run, run boy / Faster than the past / Through the looking glass.” Similarly, Doherty’s obsession with the concept of Albion (the Old English term for Great Britain) is given an interesting spin on ‘Merry Old England’, which tackles the refugee crisis and, by extension, social issues in a way that the group have never managed before. For fans of their softer side, meanwhile, ‘Night of the Hunter’ often feels like the sonic sequel to ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’. There’s no reinvention of the wheel to be found here, but – unlike 2015’s Anthems For Doomed Youth – they’re aware there’s little point in fixing something that isn’t broken.

Here, instead, The Libertines have taken the DNA of their noughties heyday and injected it with an all-important modern gaze and a dose of personal perspective. Crucially, it’s really fun. Diehard fans will have few complaints.