Revisiting The Libertines’ second album as it turns 18 years old

Virgin Radio

1 Sep 2022, 12:55

Credit: Rough Trade Records / Getty

The Libertines’ sophomore album is 18 years old this week. Simply titled The Libertines, the record landed on 30th August 2004, and went to number one in the UK album chart.

The release followed the indie/garage-rock quartet’s celebrated debut record, Up the Bracket, and in part chronicles the complicated relationship between frontmen Peter Doherty and Carl Barât, as well as telling tales of everyday British life with their trademark evocative lyrics.

During the recording of their previous LP, Up the Bracket, the band had become fractious, at least in part due to Doherty’s apparently increased drug use, and there were periods where each vocalist did not perform with the rest of the group (Doherty also had his side-project Babyshambles at this time). 

In the summer of 2003, with Barât refusing to allow Doherty back into the band unless he cleaned up, the remaining three members, John Hassall (bass), Gary Powell (drums), and Barât toured without him. Doherty then burgled Barât's flat in what was described in the press as “revenge”. He was arrested, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to six months in prison. The sentence was later reduced to two months upon appeal.

When the musician was released in October 2003, Barât was outside Wandsworth prison waiting for him. The band then performed a gig together that very night, before going on to play three sold-out dates at the London Forum in December, and an acclaimed UK tour the following year. 

Whilst the recording of their eponymous second album started with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler as producer, Clash icon Mick Jones (who also produced the first record) eventually returned to oversee production. 

The second album’s lead single, Can't Stand Me Now, tells the story of the breakdown of Doherty and Barât’s relationship. “An ending fitting for the start / You twisted and tore our love apart,” Barât sings, with Doherty replying, “No, you've got it the wrong way round / You shut me up, and blamed it on the brown.” It reached number two in the singles charts.

The other single to be released from the album was its closing track, What Became of the Likely Lads? which also deals with the relationship between the two frontmen and the collapse of their band. It made the top ten of the UK singles chart upon its release. 

"What became of the dreams we had? / What became of forever?", they sing.

When Peter Doherty joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky this morning (1st September), he spoke about his tumultuous past, saying: “I get a feeling that people who come to gigs over the years, or were really into our music weren't really tabloid readers. So you got this strange dichotomy. You've got this tabloid infamy, and where you're this tabloid, character puppet. And then you've got your real self that’s trying to do what he does… trying to write songs and make a living from it.”

The cover photograph for the band's second album (pictured at the top of the page, left) features Carl Barât and Peter Doherty, and was taken by Roger Sargent during the gig they played in Chatham, Kent, on the day that Doherty was released from jail. 

Peter reportedly lapsed back into drug-taking during the making of the second album, and, once it was recorded, was admitted to The Priory.

Following the release of their second album, The Libertines, minus Doherty, played their final show for over five years in Paris in December 2004. From then on, Doherty and Barât instead played in their own bands, Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things. It seemed that The Libs were done and dusted.

In 2010, however, The Libertines reformed to play the Reading and Leeds Festivals. With more live shows following, they later released their third album, Anthems for Doomed Youth, in 2015, and this year celebrated the 20th anniversary of Up The Bracket with a sizeable tour.

As well as playing live with The Libertines and clean, Peter told Chris Evans that he feels, “ever more deeply drawn to writing, not just music, but about music.”

He added: “I'm quite into new bands. I've started a little label, Strap Originals. I'm really excited by people starting out on that journey.”

Read Peter Doherty’s interview with Chris Evans at and catch up with the full chat between Chris and Peter.