“On the Potential Extent to Which The Libertines Have ‘Become Blur’ with All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade.”

In general, most of the opinions of Blur have been pretty positive, in America, in the last 20 years, matters perhaps getting a bit murky circa 2023/2024 with their questionable festival live show and band/audience relationship, centralized at Coachella and reported copiously by NME. Interestingly, upon its release, The Ballad of Darren, an album whose side A I gladly abided but whose posterior I found hopelessly down and syrup-y, met with almost unanimous praise initially, but now has contributed (or donated, maybe) a copy to the Half Price Books used vinyl bin here in Michiana. 

So where do Blur sit now? It’s tough to say, but this new Libertines album, All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade, which I think would have gone completely unnoticed by me if not for The Fire Note’s Facebook feed, does help to numb the pain of a supreme disappointment by a band the stature of Blur, which, really, in my opinion, had never in their career put out a bad album other than Darren. Up to said point, they’d had this preternatural knack for chiming in just when they needed to, taking four years off before the surreal, half-man/half-robotic Think Tank, and 12 years off before the fountain-of-youth sugar/caffeine shot of The Magic Whip (2015). The Ballad of Darren seemed well-timed, but relied too much on uninspired balladry, which, again, had been bizarrely championed by a lot of online hacks upon its release, probably for iconographic reasons, at best.

Is it possible that Pete Doherty and company heard the horrible stylistic ineptitude [1] of The Ballad of Darren and experienced a sort of consequent “call to arms,” of sorts, to step in an fill the void that had been left in the rock world? I really don’t know, nor do I have any idea what the He** Doherty is talking about in “Merry Old England.” I get the sense it’s not my business, actually, and also that it doesn’t really matter, provided you can put this album on at a cookout and not get the natives’ thoughts drifting to Magic: The Gathering and tide pods. 

The Libertines, anyway, say it all, right on the time-stopping opener to All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade, “Run Run Run”: storm out of the gates, blokes. When Blur was at their best, I think, was “Song 2”; a two-minute song of breakneck pace and ear-piercing caterwaul, about jumbo jets and heavy metal. On “Run Run Run”; then, we get an undulating stew of delicate emotion and raw power, followed with spirit by the metaphoric, fantastical “Mustangs”: “You can see her every night / Riding mustangs into her dreams”. 

Though things do slow down a bit on side B of All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade [2], “Raven’s Claw”; with its tension and ominous lyrics, and “Shiver”; with its penchant for sustaining the album’s groove, do enough to cement this LP as a rock album, hence ingratiating it to the stew of Definitely Maybe, In it for the Money, Psychocandy, Combat Rock or what have you [3]. “Be Young” features what is probably Carl Barat’s best solo to date, sounding like he has about 25 fingers and is on a mission from God to become Graham Coxon. Okay, now I’m self-serving. Anyway, the level of inspiration is profuse and undeniable pervasive within All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade, likely The Libertines’ best album to date, and a defiantly emphatic and urgent statement from a band composed of Blur’s fellow Londoners, as it were. 


[1] In particular, within, say, side B of Parklife, we can observe how, in contrast to the albeit poignant and gorgeous “This is a Low”; the genus of influences (disco/funk/R&B/Stones) runs more rampant in, say, “Magic America”; hence making for a more florid listen, and better discussion point for years to come, after the initial release buzz wears off, as it were.  


[2] This is typically the practice of every rock band, British or otherwise, this side of the superhuman Vaccines, whose last album, the blistering, uncompromisingly perky Back in Love City, should not be attempted by mere mortals. 


[3] Along these lines, it’s amazing how quickly the grey masses will relinquish their worship of breakneck groove and verbose mix to abide ballad, if it means being able to manifest a new disposable “pop star” of the week to extol. 


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