As anyone who’s even had the scantest whiff of the gossip surrounding the band shall know, it’s been a troublesome, rocky road for The Libertines. After a busy schedule of drug addictions, burglaries, fighting, fall-outs, make-ups and that curious incident where Carl fell out the bath and smashed his face up, it’s a small wonder that they ever managed to escape long enough to record this album in the first place. It’s just as well, as anyone following the grand Libertines soap opera might be so caught up as to have easily forgotten what it was that made the band so special in the first place. Their debut, ‘Up The Bracket’, was an exhilarating rock record, tapping into the very core of what it is to be youthful British vagabond. Over-flowing with exuberant, dysfunctional cockney charm, it whipped up a frenzy of deserved attention from all facets of day-to-day urban life. They emerged from the press frenzy as heroes of the generation, after one album commanding wild praise usually reserved only for longer-established acts. Then, as you are no doubt aware, it all went horribly wrong. Goodbye Rock Legends, Hello Tabloid Fodder.
With the emergence of album two, it’s nice to be given an opportunity to remember that, at the end of the day, it’s all about the music. Don’t let Peter Doherty’s attention-seeking antics put you off this emotionally raw and heart-warmingly honest second album, as with it they prove there is some justification to their branding as ‘The Greatest British Rock Act Of Today’. If ‘Up The Bracket’ spat in the face of expectation then the new album will mug said expectations in a cider-soaked alley and plunder the hell out of every pocket to be found, not leaving before delivering a swift boot to the teeth, and saying, ‘Fuck you and your expectations you ugly son of a bitch!’ as ‘The Libertines’ charges through the haze from the crack pipe and presents us with fourteen visceral rock tracks of the highest order.
By now, you’ll have no doubt heard the album’s first single, ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ (actually, hold on, you’ll probably have heard the whole album after it being leaked onto the web - Ed), a tender justification of the band’s current situation, explaining why Doherty is, at this moment in time, no longer in the band:
Carl: “You twisted and tore our love apart/Your light fingers through the dark/Shattered the lamp into darkness, they cast us all”.
Pete: “No, you’ve got it the wrong way round/ you shut me up, and blamed it on the brown”.
More drama than an episode of Neighbours.
After the opener’s hand-bags at dawn scenario, we’re taken on a personal tour of Pete and Carl’s current lives and mindsets via thirteen more tracks, including soon-to-be classics ‘The Man Who Should Be King’ and ‘The Ha Ha Wall’. Ending with the glorious, twisted love song, ‘What Became Of The Likely Lads’, we’re shown that despite the intense dispute between the two, Pete and Carl’s love for each other is ultimately unwavering. Carl: “Please don’t get me wrong/ See I forgive you in a song we’ll call the likely lads”.
The songs sounding great is all good and well, but many hardcore fans may be disappointed that a couple of the tracks, such as ‘What Katie Did Next’, amount to nothing more than re-recorded B-sides. Despite this minor qualm, it does cover all aspects of the current ‘Pete-enders’ saga, so for anyone new to the band it serves well as a ‘Previously On…’ catch-up. The drug addiction is here, the betrayal of friendship, the youthful optimism, the tortured poetry and, of course, the courting of lovely ladies. It is, above all, compelling listening.
With the release of this album, it’s reassuring to find that, after the turmoil, The Libertines still have it. Whether this is to be their last album or not, no-one can say. Yet even if they implode tomorrow, with albums as good as this, all we can be is thankful.
The ceremony takes place later this month.
The Libertines drummer tells us about the music that’s shaped him.
They will also be sharing a super deluxe edition of their debut.
They’ll be performing at the UK’s first socially distanced live music arena this summer.