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The Libertines Merry Old England Meaning and Review

Updated: Apr 8


Thematic Shift: Confronting Social Realities

"Merry Old England" unveils a significant shift in The Libertines' songwriting. The band that once captivated audiences with tales of youthful chaos and messy London nights now confronts the complexities of a changing Britain. At its heart, the song challenges the rosy notion of Albion with a biting commentary on the refugee crisis and the country's social landscape.  This newfound political edge paints a picture of a desperate search for refuge met with a cold, unwelcoming England.


Musical Evolution: Introspection Meets Raw Energy

Musically, "Merry Old England" surprises with a touch of introspection not often heard from the band. The addition of strings brings in a melancholic depth, enhancing the poignancy of the lyrics. However, the raw energy of their garage-rock roots still anchors the song, ensuring it carries that unmistakable Libertines stamp. This sonic blend signals a maturity for the band, a willingness to explore new territories without severing ties to their signature sound.




The Libertines Merry Old England A Timely Exploration

Critical reception for "Merry Old England" has been largely positive.  Many laud the band's foray into social commentary, marking a clear evolution in their artistic output. The combination of familiar musicality with these weightier themes has resonated with many, with some suggesting comparisons to the more introspective side of their earlier work.  Overall, "Merry Old England" stands out as a fascinating addition to The Libertines'  songwriting – a timely and compelling track that showcases their growth as artists.


Listen to The Libertines Merry Old England



The Libertines Merry Old England Lyrics Meaning 

Verse by Verse Breakdown


Verses 1 & 2: The opening verses acknowledge the arduous journey refugees endure to reach England, a place often held up as an idealized destination. The juxtaposition of "merry" with the mundane imagery of "crisp packets and puddles" immediately undermines this romanticized image.



Verse 3: Here, the focus shifts to the dangers refugees face. The "chalk cliffs," a symbol of England, lose their iconic whiteness in the 'sodium light,' hinting at a darker, less welcoming reality. The congratulations on "staying alive" carry a heavy dose of irony.

Verse 4: This verse highlights the desperation driving refugees to risk their lives. The stark contrast between the meager "B&B and vouchers" and the 'dreams' fuels the song's central question: Is this the life refugees envisioned when risking everything to reach England?

Verse 5: The song draws attention to the diverse backgrounds of those seeking refuge, emphasizing the universal aspect of their struggles.


Chorus: The repetition of the chorus underscores the disconnect between the idealized image of England and the harsh reality refugees encounter. The line "congrats on staying alive" takes on a chilling tone with each repetition.


Bridge: The defiant rejection of visas and immigration bureaucracy highlights the urgency and determination of refugees. The imagery of scaling walls and using dinghies suggests the extreme lengths people will go to for a chance at a better life.

Outro: The final lines become a rallying cry, even a subversive claim to 'rule' and 'get one over on' England. There's a paradoxical mix of defiance and vulnerability in this ending.


Core Message of The Libertines Merry Old England

"Merry Old England" delivers a scathing critique of England's treatment of refugees and the gap between the country's idealized image and its harsher realities. The Libertines highlight:


False Promises: England is often perceived as a land of opportunity, but the song questions if it truly delivers on these promises for those fleeing persecution.

Dehumanization: The bureaucratic language of "visas" and the focus on catching refugees suggest their struggles are reduced to an immigration problem, not a humanitarian crisis.

Resilience: Despite the hostile environment, the song emphasizes the unwavering determination and strength of spirit driving refugees onward.

Beyond the Lyrics


"Merry Old England" functions as a powerful form of artistic protest. Its melancholic strings and subdued tone add emotional weight to its social commentary, making it a thought-provoking and complex entry in The Libertines' discography.



The Libertines Merry Old England Lyrics

I know, I know, I know you came the long way 'round

Just had to get to merry old England

Crisp packets and puddles on the ground

Welcome to merry old England


Yeah, I know, I know, I know, I know you've been around

Just had to get to merry old England

I've seen you on the swings and on the merry-go-round

How you finding merry old England?


With her chalk cliffs, once white, they're greying in the sodium light, oh

My, my, my, my congrats on staying alive

Hope they don't catch you tonight


The illegals have landed in Dalby Square

Did they give you everything that you dreamed of?

A B&B and vouchers for three square

Is it everything that you dreamed of?


Oh yeah, now they're Russian through Albania

They've got to get to Merry Old England

And Syrians, Iraqis, and Ukrainians

Oh, how you finding merry old England?


With her chalk cliffs, once white, they're greying in the sodium light, oh

My, my, my, my, congrats on staying alive

Hope they don't catch you tonight


I know, I know, I know you came the long way 'round

Welcome to merry old England

I've seen you on the swings and on the merry-go-round

How you finding merry old England? Yeah


I know, I know, I know you came the long way 'round

You had to get to merry old England

I've seen you on the swings and on the merry-go-round

How you finding merry old England?


Oh, with your chalk cliffs, once white, they're greying in the sodium light

Oh my, my, my, my good luck on staying alive

Hope they don't catch you tonight


No, I don't need your visa, mate, no

I don't need a ticket, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

I can climb your fence, I can scale your wall, I climb your cliffs

Don't need your visa, mate

I've got a dinghy, mate

Oh, keep your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

No, I don't need a ticket, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

I'll make it to merry old England

Don't need your visa, mate

I'm coming to merry old England

Don't need your visa, mate

Gonna rule old England

Don't need your visa, mate

Get one over on old England

Don't need your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

Don't need your visa, mate

Welcome to merry old England




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