Every once in a while, a band will come along that will make you think about feelings, whether by screaming and rapping about them over pseudo-metal beats or singing them over radio-friendly guitar riffs. The Libertines, thank God, are not one of those bands.
The debut from the Libertines, fashionably late newcomers to the current rock revival, hits from all sorts of directions. Ranging from the catchy, driving sound of “Boys in the Band” to such subdued numbers as the folksy “Radio America” and the blues-heavy, untitled hidden track, Up the Bracket incorporates a wide array of styles into the mix, somehow making them all feel like they belong. Overall, the record has a feel best described as unhinged, both lyrically and sonically.
Though there’s not a bad song, there are standouts. “Horrorshow” recalls the golden age of punk with its hard, melodic guitars paired up with lyrics like, “She said, ‘I’ll show you a picture / A picture of tomorrow / There’s nothing changing / It’s all sorrow.’ / Oh no please don’t show me / I’m a swine, you don’t wanna know me.”
Adding to the buzz surrounding this band is Mick Jones – co-founder of punk legends the Clash – who emerged out of retirement to produce the record. His production fits the band like a glove, giving the sound an ever-so-slightly polished feel that allows their songwriting to take front stage.
Inevitable comparisons have been made between the Libertines and bands like the Strokes, Buzzcocks, the Jam and (of course) the Clash, so I’ll put those out there for those who need a point of reference. Get past the hype, however, and you’ve got an enjoyable, rock-solid record, all gold with no pretentiousness.
[Drew Atkins wants you to know how dapper he is.]