The Libertines - Up the Bracket (Cover Artwork)

The Libertines

Up the Bracket (2002)

Rough Trade

What the Strokes' first album, Is This It? is to achieving American post-punk revival in the mainstream, Up the Bracket by the Libertines is the British equivalent of this mainstream punk resurgence. The difference, however, is that the Strokes still lean more often than not towards power-pop while the Libertines are punk-pop. Although this revival is done in such a way that it does not so much as lift from the past than tribute it by using the framework molded by such bands as the Jam and the Buzzcocks.

The best element at the Libertines' disposal may also be their worst enemy: the way that they can work a classic hook, or a superb chorus into a song, without forcing it on the listener, but rather inviting it. In other words, the pop elements are not overdone; and that, my friend, is what true pop-punk is about: not overdoing one or the other of the two genres. The bad side to this is that the Libertines can do this so swiftly that after a while that their attuned racket becomes predictable. As often they stick to a formula, although it may be their own formula, it's a formula nonetheless, and that renders it unsurprising.

Songs such as the opener, "Vertigo," and "Death on the Stairs," are both rising and melodic, featuring a nice drum stomp to them, and the third song, "Horrorshow," is a swaggering hard rocker. Yet, soon after that point, the album briefly takes a downturn. "Time for Heroes" and "Boys in the Band" may be even better than the average good song, yet they are also placed at a point in the album in which they should be filled with more ideas, instead of recycling the last few tracks' glories.

Yet, after the worst song on the album, in the un-kinetic, uninteresting and most of all sleepy "Radio America" comes the best song on the album, the trailblazing title track. This is the best example of everything that makes the Libertines work. With its chorus that is as head-boppin' and foot-tapping as it is rockin‘, to the blitz dynamics of the band at its apex in knowing when to cut it loose and rock out. In the midst of it all is the slurring vocal of Pete Doherty, adding to the stylistic pot to make it a perfect song. This song, as well as pretty much the whole album, also shows the band as great songwriters. They may not always be poets, but they are indeed talented lyricists.

Unlike "Radio America," the similar slow-esque "Tell the King" shows the Libertines can work up a good amount of mood when they want to. Another standout track is " The Good Old Days," which provides both mood and rave-ups in the span of only three minutes.

Whether or not you have the bonus track editions or not (as some new editions have the single "What a Waster" and another song called "Mayday" that is unlisted on the artwork), the rest of the album is rather like the aforementioned tracks ("Time for Heroes" and "Boys in the Band"). They may work, but also do not take the band in any more unique directions for both them and the listener.

That is the Libertines in a nutshell: glory, glory, and hallelujah!