If you had any doubts about The Libertines signing with a commercial label and getting a pop producer on board, it’s apparent in ‘Gunga Din’. Now, before I get onto where the track goes wrong, here’s where it goes right: The chorus is everything you really want out of a Libertines song. The guitars are spot on, clattering together just like ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ or ‘Time For Heroes’ might. The melody of the chorus is just as good, it’s just the lyrics (typically the area where the Libertines excel) which lets down the chorus. ‘The road is long, but if you stay strong / you’re a better man than I’ is anthemic, but in a vague, radio-rock anthemicness. It’s sad but the chorus is one of the only redeeming feature of the track.
It only gets worse in the verse. The guitar and drums are tinged with a reggae beat, but it’s the vocals and lyrics that truly let the remainders of the song down. Lyrics like ‘the mirror is fucking ugly and I’m sick of looking at him’ and ‘I woke up again / to my chagrin’ somehow bound the lines between pretentious ‘Albion’ poetry and some miserable bastard in a pub attempting to string together a sentence. The Libertines are still focussed on drugs, drink and that good ‘ol brotherhood and by this point the topics are a little stale. The change-up of styles to a mixture of reggae and indie rock is a hard pill to take, only inflamed by the strangely weak lyrics and Pete Doherty and Carl Barat’s mixture of slurred and nasal vocals. It’s a bizarre track to promote the new album with; it doesn’t hold up with the punky beginnings of ‘Horrorshow’ or the later developments into chart-topping pop with ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’.