The Libertines

The Libertines

Up The Bracket

Rough Trade

To be reviewing The Libertines at the moment feels a bit like being a priest at a wake. With singer and guitarist Pete Doherty fighting major drug addiction and being dropped by the band until he gets clean, the future of this great British band seems bleak. Their once imminent second album looks increasingly like an epitaph. If this is their fate (and for Pete’s sake most of all, we hope it isn’t), it is worth reasserting the genius of their debut record.

Before The Libertines came along with their disheveled take on taut guitar pop, the English rock scene was a landscape of interminable boredom. Populated with sensitive boys playing the Coldplay card, all piano ballads with greetings-card emotions, it didn’t look good. I, for one, thought about leaving the country and starting a punk scene in Tahiti.

Then The Libertines emerged from east London with a rocket in their collective pocket and made me want to stick around. A gang of former rent boys who seemed to have absorbed the ideas of the Beats and Chatterton wholesale and married it to the better end of the Jam’s wiry rock became, pretty much, overnight successes. And, my God, they deserve it. Not least, they gave British rock an element of instability, even danger. This is a band that went in for guerrilla gigging, anywhere that would have them at a moment’s notice, and a Year Zero approach to the old guard. Check this lyric: “I get along, just singing my song / People tell me I’m wrong / Fuck ’em.”

The likes of “The Boy Looked at Johhny” and “Death on the Stairs” are genuine Anglo-rock classics. If recent events really herald the end of The Libertines, we should all start mourning now.

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