The Libertines - The Libertines (Cover Artwork)

The Libertines

The Libertines: The LibertinesThe Libertines (2004)
EMI Group

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: adamAdam
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I was reading a beautiful diatribe of a record review the other day. It was overlong and epic in scope but chock full of interesting analysis, one of those love-letter reviews written by a die hard but critical fan. I love that stuff. it's good reading. However I suppose I wasn't too shocked to disc.
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I was reading a beautiful diatribe of a record review the other day. It was overlong and epic in scope but chock full of interesting analysis, one of those love-letter reviews written by a die hard but critical fan. I love that stuff. it's good reading. However I suppose I wasn't too shocked to discover the comments left by readers mainly complained that the reviewer talked too much about the band and not enough about individual songs. If that's not a microcosm for modern opinions on music, then I don't know what is. Blame it on the anti-celebrity attitudes of the indie scene, or the lack of a strong and respected voice in the mainstream press, or hell blame kids who forgo the album and steal all their favourite singles off the net. Regardless of cause, at the end of the day the band doesn't seem to matter when compared to that three minute MP3.

Think about it though. Take one of today's a widely respected hardcore or melodic punk bands. Take your favourite band! Replace the bassist and drummer. Do you care? Would you even know? Hell, replace the guitarists with ones of equal skill and keep the singer. Is it still the same band? Yes... and therein lies the problem. It shouldn't be that way. I couldn't name you three quarters of the band members on half the records I own. Sit back and look at the last 10 records you picked up and it's remarkably bland from that perspective. Sure, a band can ROCK, but the songs are all that seem to matter. It's because they counter this trend that I find The Libertines so interesting. Personality doesn't seem like that obvious an element until you realize for how long you've missed it. The fanatical embellishments of the overzealous British press notwithstanding, there's a very real and engaging story unfolding around the band. The music on The Libertines' sophomore full length therefore can't be divorced from the band. Yes the songs matter, but there's personality, sorrow and soul here, and to divorce the Libertines' music from the plot would be a disservice.

The album opening single shatters any illusion that the story of the Libertines is expendable. "Cornered the boy kicked out at the world / The world kicked back a lot fucking harder / Can't take me anywhere / Wouldn't take you anywhere / You can't stand me now." There it is in the first minute. Peter Doherty's very public battle with his addictions. Carl Barat trying to keep the sinking ship on course. It's a theme throughout the record and a cloud that hangs over every song. The charm of "Can't Stand Me Now" is the gentle, understated way in that this message is delivered; The guilty smiling meekly as they acknowledge their crime and shyly acknowledge that they'll do it again. The Libertines is overall a more subtle effort than the energetic Up The Bracket, with more emphasis on classic pop songwriting and folk/pub rock jams than the Clash / Jam aping garage rock of it's predecessor. Doherty and Barat's vocals are more distinct and comfortable this round but no less frenetic and messy. Thankfully bassist John Hassall and drummer Gary Powell have tightened the rhythm section so at least the foundation remains solid throughout. The band is at their emotional peak when self-analyzing their mess, "Music When The Lights Go Out" and "What's Become Of The Likely Lads" are two of the most genuinely touching tunes in recent memory. The least interesting tracks on the album are in fact those that return to the speedy 70s punk influences of their debut. "Arbeit Macht Frei" and "Narcissist" are examples. The chorus of the latter, "Wouldn't it be nice to be Dorian Grey / Just for a day," an attack on "professionally trendy" narcissism is a thin line to walk for a band whose lives are so public. They barely pull it off. The doo wop flavored "What Katie Did" and Tomblands," which is nearly a sea chanty, are fun diversions but don't feel as fully realized as they could be.

The most frustrating aspect of record is that its best songs are indeed its most ambitious, which makes the low points seem so more for lack of effort than lack of skill. Producer Mick Jones was entirely justified in hyping "The Man Who Would Be King." Sounding road weary and wise "And to the man who would be king / I will say only one thing" is followed (after a perfect, foreboding pause) by the band merrily singing "La La / La La La..." It's anticlimactic and wonderfully hopeless. Brilliantly so. A loaded bit of sarcastic advice to every band hyped as the next savior. "I lived my dream today I lived it yesterday / And I'll be living yours tomorrow / So don't look at me that way!"

"Last Post On The Bugle," "The Ha Ha Wall" and the aforementioned "What Became Of The Likely Lads" sit as kings among lesser tracks. They're testament to the heights the band can hit. They're why the lack of realization of that skill is so infuriating. It opens cyclical arguments about how good the band could be if Pete was clean and focused... but without Pete's chaotic life would the band's emotional resonance be lost? But if creativity is fostered by life experience isn't this for the best? But Pete can't go on living this way... but if... but if...

Yet there's something remarkably compelling about this house of cards, it harkens back to the chaotic, shambolic existences of bands we now call classic; back to that remarkable time when the most musically interesting bands happened to be ones with the most personal chaos. That's something we've honestly lost. Celebrity in music is now too close to celebrity in acting. It's become soulless, plastic. The pop sensation on the runway at the MTV awards has very little to differentiate themselves from the shallow teen movie star du jour. You certainly don't care about these people. However look at your great bands of old, there's chaos, there's entropy, there's a constant state of falling apart and as part of that there's personality and soul: The three week binges in which Joe Strummer outright disappeared from the Clash. Lennon and McCartney's excesses driving Harrison to quit the fab four, then threatening to replace him with Clapton. Phil Spector forcing the Ramones to keep playing at gunpoint only to have everyone but Joey up and leave. Kurt. Hell, the entire glorious two-year disaster that was the Sex Pistols.

It's in defying or succumbing to that imminent destruction that these groups captivated off record, and it's this drama that added emotional weight to their recorded work. We over-analyze because we're drawn into the story, and quite frankly there's been little actual story to modern bands like there has been to the Libertines. Sure, we'll always have our share of junkies and media whores, but that doesn't mean their recorded work is the least bit interesting. It's because The Libertines are so romantic, so in love with rock and roll, so fucking charming in the face of it all falling down around them you can't look away.

Reviewers have been chastising the band for wasting their brilliance away, for not delivering that epic, era-defining album we all know they have the potential for. However these reviewers are arguing against the plot, sour because their messiahs haven't emerged on cue, confused because a band isn't fitting the pattern we've come to expect. If the likely lads have it in them, if this damaged group of fools can deliver that record one day, it will be all the better for what they've gone through. I wouldn't want it any other way.


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The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!Dear Landlord - Dream HomesRefused - The Shape of Punk to ComeThe Clash - London CallingDead to Me - Cuban BallerinaThe Clash - The ClashThe Weakerthans - Reconstruction SiteNOFX - The DeclineMinor Threat - Complete DiscographyFugazi - The Argument

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
capitalist_pig (July 13, 2006)

I kinda hope you die, guy below me.

Anonymous (June 26, 2006)

u really can post anything u want on this site! wow!
by the way i really love green day! i rule! peace!

Anonymous (June 26, 2006)

i love pete and sort of believe carl was soooooo wrong to write "bang bang,you're dead".i know pete is a weirdo sometimes but he's really trying to clean up his act.yet overall this book is trying to explain their freindship.

Passion_of_Destruction (August 15, 2005)

it's a really good listen. i love 'em.

sydslovebuzz (September 28, 2004)

I like em, its a good listen. i like up the bracket more than this one, but both are well made albums. This album takes you on a cool trip and shifts in moods and beats. both albums live in my CD player for hours at a time....then i have to move on to something else. but i always come back to em. they're good..people sometimes dislike it that it kinda has 70s infulences, but i personally like that, theres no way im gonna be listening to mod sounding music all the time and not miss the good old times that started it all...As for people always talking about thier "image" in negative light, well obviously its not about thier image, its about the music they make. so the whole "image" critique is pointless. if you're interested in how messed up or how good looking a band is.. more than the music they make, try writing to teen girl magazines, leave that crap out of music reviews/comments. that is unless it's absolutely necessary which in most cases it isn't. i gave this album a 9 cause up the bracket is a 10.

Anonymous (September 25, 2004)

i love the record! it's friggin' awesome, music when the lights go out is the best song

Anonymous (September 10, 2004)

let's smoke some crack!!!!

i hope he dies

-justin vavala

Anonymous (September 9, 2004)

The thing about The Libertines though, is that their whole image is so entrenched in this soap opera they've got going on, that they forget to do the songs. They wouldn't get on my nerves so much if it wasn't for all the "junkie saviours of rck 'n roll" crap that goes on, because they are really bland and boring. And just another retro rock-revivalist band who forgot that the 70s finished a long time ago.

Put The Libertines at the tail end of the 70s and I bet they'd have been washed away with all the other bands who sounded just like them.

As for the whole image thing, I was talking with a friend about it. What follows are excerpts from an MSN conversation, so it will probably seem a bit stilted:

Friend: "their "personality" is very linear and one-dimensional"

it's all people can deal with

cos they're thick

and that this guy considers Pete's drugs a emotional struggle or something

as this guy seems to think thatcourting with destruction is cool

"confused because a band isn't fitting the pattern we've come to expect"

they are exactly following the pattern

Me: "he's just a junkie media whore

i bet he'd have quit ages ago if it wasn;t for the whole mythology thing he's trying to build up"

Another point that made my friend made: When comparing The Libertines to Oasis, two bands that are spectacularly unoriginal, remember that at least Oasis worked their way up. I guess that they didn't have that extra leg up of being addicted to skag and not being afraid to brag about it.

Anonymous (September 8, 2004)

i like this record. a proper follow-up to up the bracket. too bad pete cant keep it together. a shame. or a problem. hope he kicks the junk so they can continue to make music together.

well written review as well.

eyvert (September 8, 2004)

me like, me like! not like the other music im into, but this expands my horizon.. whatever..

Anonymous (September 7, 2004)

good review and good record, although I need more listens to fully form an opinion. thusfar I like 'up the bracket' more, and this didnt' live up to Mick Jons'es, "best record since london calling" assessment of this work. The first track is outstanding though, as is 'music after the lights' or whatever. based on one listen i'll give it a 6....

Anonymous (September 6, 2004)

and what imitation of the stones would that be? aside from the inescapable shadow of the rolling stones, there is not one noticeable aspect of ripping off the stones about this band. you must be thinking about the hives.

amk88 (September 6, 2004)

Boring dinosaur rock music - your imitation of the Stones is not impressing anyone.

Anonymous (September 6, 2004)

Adam knows too much about music to be a music journalist outside of a zine like Ugly Things. All the other magazines, it's like they make sure the critics don't know shit about music before they let them review the stuff.


cdogg (September 6, 2004)

Now THAT'S a review. Adam, you're missing your calling in life if you don't become a rock journalist. As much as I love this website, you should be writing these reviews where a much broader audience can read them.

Anonymous (September 5, 2004)

I hate this shit.

Suicide girls rule!!

Anonymous (September 5, 2004)

does the album endorse homosexuality?

- g dub u

Anonymous (September 5, 2004)

I picked this up yesterday,i like it. -oldpunker-

Anonymous (September 5, 2004)

"so is this the new oasis?"

Bland pub rock with a rock 'n roll attitude. Yes, it most certainly is.

Anonymous (September 4, 2004)

very good review!

notfeelingcreative (September 4, 2004)

This review accomplished what I believe reviews are supposed to do, convince people to buy the album. There really wasn't anything a review could've said that would've convinced me not to buy the last bad religion or rise agains discs, and there really isn't any string of complimentary gushing that will convince me to pick up the next saves the day record, but for bands like this, that I would've ignored, simply because i'd never really heard of them, this review difinately made me cuious about the band, I'm streaming the record fom the bands website and will probably pick this up when the hurricane is over!

gypsymazzurco (September 4, 2004)

Easily the best most thought out review I've seen on this site probably ever. Save Pete!

Anonymous (September 4, 2004)

This review is good for the sole reason it got me extremely interested in this album to the point I can't wait to listen to it.

That's quality

Anonymous (September 4, 2004)

"so is this the new oasis?"

anything but.

opivykid (September 4, 2004)

Cover is kinda odd.....

Anonymous (September 3, 2004)

i've been tired of waiting for this record.

Anonymous (September 3, 2004)

so is this the new oasis?

Anonymous (September 3, 2004)

If you think about it, most things go in cycles. All these "classic" bands you mentioned had publicized personal chaos, but before and after that, music styles moved away from personal problems and towards an image. The 50's were all about idolizing "perfect" celebrities who kept personal problems out of the public eye. The 60's moved away from that and the 70's cemented it, but then in the 80's there was a shift towards simulated perfection again with many 80's pop acts. The 90's brought a reaction to that, and gave us grunge and Kurt and the like, and now, again many bands are either taking a more impersonal feel with their music or rebelling against that with "straight up rock n' roll."

Fuzzy (September 3, 2004)

Consistently my favorite web-reviewer, you just caused me to purchase this album on iTunes. This is the type of review you need to read time to time, but only when the album justifies it. Some albums can be summed up as "Good" or "shittastic" or "man, I bet the Wade would love this", but for the rare album that is either fundamentally brilliant or fundamentally terribly disappointing, and Homer-esque epic like you've crafted is needed.

TrailerParkJesus (September 3, 2004)

This review is nuts. Although, it seemed like you went into it and liked it a lot more than the 4 stars you gave..

gladimnotemo (September 3, 2004)

Both of these CDs are slowly becoming my current favorites. I've never heard more mumbling and stumbling through a record.

Thank God for filthy English drunks and guitars.

Anonymous (September 3, 2004)

Best review I have read on this site.

Anonymous (September 3, 2004)

I love this band, but Pete's shennanegans are growing tiresome. I hate that everytime I they announce a US show I have to wait and see if Pete's actually coming with them. If he does leave the band permenantly, Carl should change the name, because as the cover suggests, the Libertines is really about the two of them.


JiveSide (September 3, 2004)

Good review...quick question...what happens when the music outlasts the memory of those who made it? I ask this because to stress the events surrounding a recording or within the musicians who created that music is putting too much emphasis on something that is, in actuality, dressing that is only appetizing because we, as an audience, have a sick taste for it. Now, if the story behind the music is just as or more important than the music, well, the music isn't that strong now is it? I'm not commenting on The Libertines, I'm simply commenting on this particular attitude towards music. To concentrate on "the show" is to distract from the act, and you gotta ask yrself, is this distraction really necessary? If the answer is yes, then the music is dismissable, if not, then the music stands on its own, as it should anyway. Names, events, anecdotes, that's all extra crap that makes money for many many many many people who had nothing to do with the work in the first place. Just some food for thought that will benefit everyone who visits this site and whomever loves music at any level. That is all, peace AouT, I love this website.

Anonymous (September 3, 2004)

Great review, best tracks for me are "Can't Stand Me Now" and "To the Man Who Would be King."

Anonymous (September 3, 2004)

Awesome record! Good review there but you forgot to mention the Strummer like crowing on "The man who would be king"now that was a great moment.

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