Crushingly, achingly, desperately disappointing.
The best rock and roll story to come out of England in donkeys years. No doubt about it. We're not arguing. The brotherly love affair of Carl Barat and Pete Doherty has made the music press worth buying again, except for Incendiary of course, we were worth reading anyway so we didn't bother to harp on about them as much as anybody else. We like to be different you see. Different, because we're honest and that is why, if you're one of those Libertines fans who thinks that they are the be all and end all of rock and roll in this day and age, I suggest that you click the back button on your browser and leave this review right now, because you won't like what I'm about to say. The Libertines' second album is shit. It's crushingly, achingly, desperately disappointing.
Disappointing because the story around it has been so entertaining. Studio fights, the on off friendship of the two leads. The abandonment of the band on the eve of a European tour, the hiding out in Paris with suicidal girl acquaintances, the fist fights, the Thailand escapade. The love, the hate, the angst. Oh, how we've enjoyed it! You get the sense that Alex Cox is already trying to buy the rights to film the biopic. Then, a short while back the Sid and Nancy of our times cuddled up to each other long enough to make a second album. The thing is, you WANT it to be great, after all, bands in turmoil have produced some of the greatest albums of all time. The problem is, it isn't.
What it does have is a great cover. The best cover I've seen in a while. Just a photo of Carl and Pete. Close, sensually close. Carl looking straight at us, determined yet almost aloof. Pete meanwhile is simply checking the tracklines in his arm. It's an iconic image and one that sums up the band better than any fucking argument transcript in a weekly rag could ever do.
It's a shame that it's the music we're here for. And most of what's on offer is just way below average. Up the Bracket was good, but not as good as you were led to believe. This is worse.
Don't get me wrong, it has its moments. The opener, Can't Stand Me Now, is fantastic. Summing up the past year in the life of the Libertines (whether they meant it to or not) better than a thousand journalists ever could (myself included) it sizzles with angst, passion and yearning. It's the best thing they've done so far and here's the idea for the video. Just stand the band onstage, put Carl and Pete either side of the microphone and have them sing this to each other, eyeball to eyeball. Run tape. Simple, effective, thrilling. This song is electrifying and it's stuff like this that makes it easy to realise why so many kids love them so much. The Man Who Would Be King is brilliant also, even if Pete sounds so fucking wasted he slurs through the verses as if he's about to fall into a brown coma.
Elsewhere, it's just glimpses of something good, and that's the problem. The Ha Ha Wall is a prime example, beginning with a catchy, toe tapping tune before quickly descending into a white noise mess that even Mudhoney would have discarded. What Katie Did is a chirpy little shoop shoop song, but it's about as memorable as a Kenny G single. Narcissist starts off rather promisingly, but then terrifyingly turns into something you'd expect Benny Hill to be running around to. It all just sounds so rushed and hurried, like they've just stapled ideas together instead of taking the time to work with them. It's all quite lazy. So lazy in fact, that I can't be arsed to talk about the rest. I hope to God they continue, I seriously do, but there's a lot to sort out before they'll be considered the best thing since sliced bread around these parts again.
Words: Damian Leslie
Illustration : Richard Foster