Carl Barât - Carl Barât
Alisha Ahmed & Federica Frezza 04/10/2010
They say the only thing harder than running from your past is trying to run from yourself.
That might make you think the mission Carl Barât decided to take on, once he went for a solo project bearing only his name on it, was just an impossible task to achieve successfully, given the shoes to fill, burdens to bear, and so on.
But the road he took makes us think he knew all of this to some level, enough to make the only winning choice possible, so that if he can't avoid the weight of his past, he might as well embrace it (with a book of "confessions", the autobiography "Threepenny Memoir" to ease the process), and if he can't live in any other shoes but his, he might as well take a snapshot of his world as it is right now (just as it looks like on the very much questioned cover of his first truly solo album, simply self titled).
That takes some courage, and even though some have been keen to criticise the sound of this album, labelling it too MOR, melodic, easy to listen and basically pop-ish safe, what they lack, in our opinion, is perspective. Because anyone who'd be willing to stop for a second, thinking about the last ten years and the contribution Mr Barât gave to the UK music scene with The Libertines first and Dirty Pretty Things after, will realise how this is something so very far from all that came before that actually he has played no safe card at all, quite the contrary, as there is a need for quite some intrepidity to take a leap in what sounds to be a completely foreign direction to him.
True, sometimes the vocal line vanishes in the background and is not enough to stand up to the raw musical canvas beneath. Sounds are so bare and up front they could easily fit as score in a french short movie.The main sound link between most of the tracks seems the prominent presence of backing vocals, joined sometimes by brasses (Run With The Boys), sometimes by strings (So Long My Lover) sometimes even by a lonely piano (Ode to a Girl).
But occasionally you feel like you're listening to demo versions of something promising, and the brass, strings, hideously prominent backing vocals seem the result of a child playing with effects unsupervised.
Even if inexplicably labelled as similar to Mr Barât's previous efforts, the first single "Run With The Boys" sounds more like something that could be featured in a 60s romantic comedy rather than on a DPT's album, and the strings crescendo of "So Long My Lover" makes it just the heart rending and very likely next single, especially considering the fact its title shows already on most advertisement this album was subjected to.
The drama now is that who knows Mr Barât for his past will love him and will consequentially love this album unconditionally, just because it bears his image and name, while those who didn't grasp more than glimpses and hints of what has happened in the last ten years, might quickly dismiss it among what is so friendly to the ears to be considered commercial, hence not quite deserving a true chance to be listened to properly without prejudices.
If you loved Mr Barât before, you'll just keep on loving him whatever his album sounds -whether or not you'll be able to tell the difference- and nothing we say is going to matter.
If you loved his music, the sudden turnaround of sound might catch you off guard and maybe leave you disappointed.
If you can just listen for 36 minutes, you might discover an artist anew, and although the overall sound might seem unpolished, it also brings along a quality too often overlooked and no longer prioritised, which is the delicacy of opening up enough to give the listener a glimpse of the human being's soul, behind the artist, and the beauty of its sincerity.