The Libertines: All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade

All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade
All Quiet in the Eastern Esplanade
Genre: Indie Rock
Label: EMI
Producer: Dimitri Tikovoï
Release Year: 2024
Listen: Spotify / Apple Music

You pretty much know what you’re going to get with a Libertines album. Some form of The Clash. But poppier and somehow more British. But at heart they’re a crowd-pleasing pop group with some really obvious idols. The Stones, for instance. And, you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. These are popular bands, after all. Some of the most popular. Ever. Are The Libertines a little goofy in their cow-belled tales of London night life? Of course! Can you practically smell the booze and cocaine buzz? For sure. But what would any of these bands be without clubs, limos and coke?

Look, I know not of which I speak. I don’t really listen to music for content. Is the melody good? Do I like the production, the instrumentation and the singing? The vibe, I suppose. And The Libertines are nothing if not vibes. It’s all about a comfort and familiarity that you get from your a favorite everything. It’s a kind of mid-tier Apatow movie. You know all the beats. You know what to expect. But you end up chuckling and occasionally laughing out loud at something unexpected. It ends and you’re like, “I enjoyed that.” But a couple days later you look back and it’s all a bit muddied by the other versions of that same media. Sure, it’s fun while it’s happening and leaves you with a warm feeling in the outro, but it has very little staying power, and even less cultural impact beyond a temporary high.

And then you ask, so? What’s so wrong with some goofy fun? Thing is, nothing’s wrong with that. This is pop music. It’s meant to tickle your whatever while it’s on and then fade once real life has taken over. And this band knows a thing or two about that. It’s not going to challenge your ears. It’s going to give you the sugary parts of Oasis. The dramatic, show-tuney side of Morrissey. Shit, The sappiest seconds of Rancid. And all sorts of moments from Brit bands I know nothing about like James, Suede and Pulp. The point is The Libertines are almost a lovely pastiche of a bunch of other things stripped of anything rough, spiky or otherwise unpleasant.

And while this would otherwise be antithetical to everything I love about rock music, The Libertines are so charming I can’t help but be okay with it. Their delivery — which is so professionally polished at this point — makes it tough to not vibe with what they’re putting down. There is the occasional Tik Tok sounding Ok Go song like “Oh Shit” that is a little too poppy and slick for its own good, but even with that, it’s a fun song. The most amazing thing, honestly, is the fact they still sound as decent as they do. There was about nine years between their second and third albums. And then almost as long between their third and this, their fourth. Drugs. Fighting. The usual — but worse. That was kind of their claim to fame. But that tumult made for a rawness in their music that seemed to capture an attitude and a snapshot in time. This latter-day version of the Libertines actually sounds better — somehow. But no longer leans into the chaos. It’s more musical. More staid. More tuneful. Because nobody expected this band to still be around 20-something years on. Hell, they never expected them to make it past the first record. The first tour. It’s impressive that everyone still has their voices and their fingers, but maybe a bust up or two at a bar — like the old days — could have added that little edge that this album could have used.