“This one feels like romance anew”: The Libertines Return to Form on ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade,’ a Record of Shadowy Figures, Bright Faces, Optimism, & Regret

The Libertines © Ed Cooke
The Libertines © Ed Cooke
Back again after nearly a decade, The Libertines hit No. 1 on the UK charts with their fourth album ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade,’ showcasing newfound world-savviness mingled with an indefatigable will to utopia.
Stream: ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade’ – The Libertines




The year is 2002.

You are, demographically speaking, probably too young to be aware of it yet, but times are booming for the indie rock scene. On one side of the Atlantic, The Strokes have just released Is This It?, a seminal album in the history of indie rock that would see cars full of strung out teenagers find a reflection of the meaninglessness of postmodernity in the refreshingly blunt lyrics of “I can’t think cause I’m just way too tired.”

On the other is The Libertines. After 2004, the band will fall out of public favor for some time, but 2002 and 2004 saw them release two albums of raucous punk-leaning rock with an undeniable London affect, like Oscar Wilde reborn as an indie sleaze artist (of course, it’s still the early 2000s, so that particular epithet has mercifully not yet been coined). In their wake, a glut of bands like the Arctic Monkeys, the continentally inclined Franz Ferdinand, and the less enduring Kaiser Chiefs and Kooks.

Much ado has been made about the tumultuous history of The Libertines, and far better writers have written meaningfully about the intense and often drug-addled relationship between co-frontmen Carl Barât and Pete Doherty. But the band officially reunited in 2014 on a new label, with Doherty successfully sober; it feels hackish to relitigate that story once again.

All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade - The Libertines
All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade – The Libertines

Now making headlines again, I got the chance to talk to the band – still Carl Barât and Pete Doherty on vocals and guitars, still John Hassall and Gary Powell on bass and drums, respectively. Their new release, All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade(April 5, 2024 via EMI), still carries that poetic Londoner bravado, still holds on to a rebellious ethos of “Albion to Arcadia,” (a philosophy of law-free utopia expounded upon greatly by Doherty on the web 1.0 Libertines forums), but still seems nostalgic, perhaps a bit world-weary for a future that could have happened but, given the course history has taken, hasn’t yet emerged.

In our conversation, we talked new music, the moment of history we live in that seems to reflect regret and hope simultaneously, the death of empire, and slowness.

For the first time the band explored issues beyond the make believe and escapism of our previous albums. We were more able this time to be conduit of the world at large.

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:: stream/purchase All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade here ::
:: connect with The Libertines here ::



The Libertines © Ed Cooke
The Libertines © Ed Cooke

A CONVERSATION WITH THE LIBERTINES

All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade - The Libertines

Atwood Magazine: Hello lads! It’s great to meet you. Thanks for sitting down with me today. So, for our readers who might not know who you are, can you give us a quick rundown of the long and legendary history of The Libertines?

The Libertines: A long and tumultuous odyssey of four friends over twenty-five years traversing the highest and the lowest points of musicality, adventure, and companionship (citation needed more information available online).

Across All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade, I’m picking up themes of nostalgia and, unless I’m reading something very wrong, quiet decay – such as the character in “Mustang,” put upon by regressive forces in her day to day life, or “Be Young,” where I think the feelings of youthful rebellion but also nostalgia are quite explicit. Where did this come from when writing the music?

The Libertines: Looking out of the window here on the eastern esplanade at this very moment I see shadowy figures, bright faces, optimism, and regret. I see nostalgia and optimism in them and wonder what they see in me. This has always been an inspiration for songwriting and storytelling, and in this case it was found on the eastern esplanade (The Albion Rooms, Margate).

The Libertines © Ed Cooke
The Libertines © Ed Cooke

Looking out of the window here on the eastern esplanade at this very moment I see shadowy figures, bright faces, optimism, and regret.

Where there any other themes you felt particularly came across during the recording of All Quiet?

The Libertines: For the first time the band explored issues beyond the make believe and escapism of our previous albums. We were more able this time to be conduit of the world at large, i.e., the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, immigration, and the death of empire.

Who were your top musical influences when writing the album?

The Libertines: We were not really listening to any other artists whilst writing this record. That said we are always working from our vocabulary which is largely composed of the greats like Velvet Underground, Django Reinhardt, Sam Cooke, The Smiths etc.

In 2014, you officially signed a new recording contract, and in 2015 released your first album of completely new material in over a decade. It’s been just shy of a decade since Anthems for Doomed Youth itself. What has changed since Anthems that’s affected your music – personally and, why not, politically? Brexit stands out as a particularly stark example in the UK’s recent past.

The Libertines: If our first album was a marriage and the second one a divorce, then Anthems for Doomed Youth was counseling and this one feels like romance anew. Things like Brexit are just carbuncles on our arses which merely exacerbates the processes of existence and creation.

The Libertines © Ed Cooke
The Libertines © Ed Cooke



If our first album was a marriage and the second one a divorce, then ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’ was counseling and this one feels like romance anew.

Not to harp too much on the theme of time, but in the broader music industry, it seems like for many artists the time between releases is compressing – releases have to be a deluge. What have these long periods between albums done for you as a band in a climate that’s generally hostile to that?

The Libertines: We may be guilty of milking our back catalog for a little while, but this has given us time to get ourselves properly aligned for when the time finally came around to write.

Was there a particularly un-Libertines like musical or lyrical decision you made on the album that stands out?

The Libertines: It was very un-Libertines to title a song Oh Shit! So this took some deliberating but if the world falls down around you and ignites in flames, you’re unlikely to say oh hell fire and calamity what is to become of us. You’re more likely to say oh shit.

What’s everyone’s favorite song on the album?

The Libertines: Our favorite songs change all the time and that has always been a sign of our better records. So that is a strong thing I think.

The Libertines © Ed Cooke
The Libertines © Ed Cooke



In 2002 when The Libertines first came to prominence, you were spearheading a golden age of singularly British indie rock. How do you see the rock “scene” now, such that it's possible to judge something as large and fractured as rock?

The Libertines: Rock and roll has always and will always exist. Sometimes in the undercurrent, sometimes in the spotlight but it’s always there. Right now it seems to be in the spotlight again for a bit.

Okay, I want to start wrapping up but I have to know, what are you listening to these days?

The Libertines: Jamie T, Fontaines DC, Soft Play, Cruel Hearts Club and Alien Chicks.

Do you have anything else you’d like Atwood’s audience to know?

The Libertines: I sure would like to see you someday (in the USA).

Thanks so much for talking to me! We hope to see you in the US very, very soon too.

— —

:: stream/purchase All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade here ::
:: connect with The Libertines here ::



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All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade - The Libertines

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