Another year gone by, another year filled with musical delights. We lost quite a few musical legends starting in December of 2015 – Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael to name just a few (and let’s not mention an overall list of artists who have left us in 2016). I lost my Aunt unexpectedly back in February the morning after attending a Black Sabbath show. The year was filled with unexpected highs and unexpected lows for me. As with anything in life, sometimes you have to feel bad to feel good (and vice versa). I made some friends, lost some friends, and reconnected with some old friends. Throughout it all, I had music playing. Here are my top albums of 2016:
I kind of missed out on The Libertines the 1st time around, 13 years ago or so. An English version of The Strokes the US press seemed to ramble on about (or so I believed at the time). The band was led by Pete Doherty and Carl Barât, but it seemed like the press gravitated towards the junkie exploits of Mr. Doherty. It was a turnoff for me, to be honest. Well…I was sorely mistaken. The Libertines took elements of The Clash and Blur and created a shambolic racket of punk inspired Britpop. Sometimes it felt like everything was going to fall apart, and sometimes it did – all part of the band’s charm. If you told me that the endless tales of Pete Doherty’s debauchery got on your nerves, well…you wouldn’t be wrong. With such a compelling discography with very few signs of weakness, I’d say…overlook the junkie horrorshow. Indeed – Doherty and Barât have never equalled the highs of The Libertines in their post breakup bands or solo, though Doherty has come the closest. Here we are in 2015, 11 years after the last album by The Libertines. Gunga Din is the lead off single from upcoming album Anthems for Doomed Youth and believe it or not, it might be the strongest single the band has released. Now older, and maybe wiser – the song features separate verses from Pete & Carl, and perhaps the catchiest chorus the band has ever given authorship to. The music moves from a druggy reggae vibe to a positively explosive Britpop chorus. Perfect, it hits every strong point imaginable. A bit from Pete’s verses: “Woke up again / To my chagrin / Getting sick and tired of / Feeling sick and tired again”. Carl weighs in “Woke up again / To my evil twin / That mirror is fucking ugly and I’m / Sick and tired of looking at him”. Both verses lead to that perfect anthemic chorus “Oh, the road is long / If you stay strong / You’re a better man than I / You’ve been beat and afraid / Probably betrayed / You’re a better man than I”. The video features the band out on a night drinking in Thailand, where they recorded their upcoming album. Don’t overlook Gary Powell’s drumming or John Hassall’s bass playing – everything works perfectly here. And what is a Gunga Din? It is an 1892 poem by Rudyard Kipling, written from the perspective of an English soldier and immortalised in the final lines of the poem “Tho’ I’ve belted you and flayed you / By the livin’ Gawd that made you / You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”. There are also songs by The Byrds and Jim Croce that share the name. The Libertines deserve to be discussed among those greats. Welcome back, boys.
Verdict: Here Are the Likely Lads
For Fans of: The Clash, Blur, The Jam, Television Personalities, Comet Gain, The Kinks