The Libertines - The Libertines

Tim Miller 30/08/2004

Rating: 4/5

Arriving not so much in a blaze of glory as through a blazing red mist of media attention, The Libertines' self-titled second album was unleashed on the 30th of August, neatly coinciding with their second successive appearance at the Carling Weekend: Reading Festival. A lot of the hype whipped up by an eagerly awaiting media has surrounded Pete Doherty, currently exiled from the band that he made and that has made him. The tabloid interest, though, has little if anything to do with the band's importance to the music world, and even less to do with the impact this second album could make.
'Up the Bracket', the storming first LP released back in 2002 by The Libertines, was slow to be picked up on by a music scene desperate for a fresh injection of originality. It wasn't until the re-release in 2003, and their first Main Stage Carling Weekend appearance, that The Libertines really took off. Since that Pete-less appearance at the Festival, and a riotous, breathtaking UK tour culminating with three stunning nights at Brixton, they have risen to leaders of the rock 'n' roll pack, pioneering a new underground movement in music (sadly inspiring such groups as The Others to try their hand). This second LP became one of the most anticipated follow up albums in popular music, especially considering the doubts raised over the album ever arriving at all.
So, while a story-hungry press waited outside Pete's flat in London, one of the most important albums of the decade, perhaps the last 50 years, was quietly edging closer to release date. Early internet hearings meant that come August 30th, most potential buyers had already heard much, if not all, of the album. The self-titled LP still flew to Number One in the charts. Opening with the catchy single 'Can't Stand Me Now', the raw production sound that so defined 'Up the Bracket' appears again: immediately, The Libertines sound is back.
The album is riddled with potential singles, such as 'Last Post on the Bugle'; a more subdued Libertines song that still manages to convey hope, and 'The Ha Ha Wall'; again a more downbeat track, with both the music and lyrics stirring the emotions. Raw passion fills songs like 'Don't be Shy' and 'Arbeit Macht Frei', the latter a rollicking musical experience verging on madness. 'Narcissist' and 'Tomblands' are two songs that throw back to 'The Boy looked at Jonny' on the first album, the whirling razzamatazz lifestyle that The Libertines push towards, 'the good old days'.
Like 'Up the Bracket', each track on 'The Libertines' offers something different. 'Campaign of Hate' is a step back from The Libertines' typical up front style, with a much drier approach to the song, while short but sweet track 'The Saga' excels in the frenzy surrounding it. 'Road to Ruin' arguably contains the chorus of the album, a punchy, uplifting few lines that you can't help but nod, tap, or stamp to.
The last song, fittingly, is 'What Became of the Likely Lads'. Every word is poignant, and significant when compared to the Carl and Pete saga, and the very song raises doubts and worry about the future of The Libertines. It would be an immeasurable loss to the music world should The Libertines never regain unity, affecting so many people and so many lives. While the song itself provides no answers, only further questions, what becomes of the likely lads remains to be seen. But only a happy ending will do.