Home > TheRest > The Libertines – Self-Titled

The Libertines – Self-Titled

Rough Trade, 2004

Okay, so pretend you don’t know who the Libertines are.  You don’t know about the drugs, the British hype machine, or their unfortunate quick exit.  Take a look at that record cover.  The band name starts out fine, but then looks as if someone tried to finish the project on a country bus.  You’ve got one guy who looks like he is vaguely concerned about his bleached elbow and another guy who has a look of ‘uh, call the ambulance’.  Along with a skull tattoo and that frightening logo in the bottom right corner and you have what amounts to a rock ‘n roll record.  It’d be a shame for anyone to leave this one lying around amidst the dust.

After listening to a few recent British rock bands, I’ve gotten an idea as to what qualities one can expect from rockers out of England.  One quality is that there’s the almost lazy, careless effect to the vocalist’s voice.  Pete Doherty and Carl Barat consistently sound as if they were asked to record/mumble the lyrics in one take while sitting in armchairs with their feet propped up.  Perhaps instead he got them down in many takes with extreme attention to nonchalant detail!  Who knows … the Libertines do have a reputation to uphold, so if they have got to sound as if they’re off the cuff all of the time then they have succeeded.

This singing style is readily apparent in “Last Post On the Bugle”, though the peppy build up and rumblin’ execution of the band makes it one of the stronger tracks on the record.  The lackadaisical swagger in this tune may trump the more radio-friendly opener of “Can’t Stand Me Now”, which was an obvious choice for a single at the time.  Nothing like a song about the difficulties of being friends with Doherty to get the kids going.

Many of the songs after the first two drift in and out of memory but don’t latch on as particularly unique.  Most of them are full of slurry lyrics and a zestful acceleration to a crashing chorus.  The tracks that stand out to me include the barnstorming “Arbeit Macht Frei” (about a racist hero of World War II), “The Saga”, and “What Became of the Likely Lads”.  “Lads” ends the ceaselessly energetic record before the band, of course, slips in a quiet acoustic number performed by Doherty.  I personally feel that when bands do this sort of thing it’s a little too late for stripped down reflections, and it mostly comes off as a trite reach for affection.  The Libertines can be forgiven, I suppose, given that the rest of the record was more enjoyable as a whole.

The Libertines and their music can be found on MySpace if you’re so interested.

Now that the Libertines are defunct, one has to feel a little bit of sadness that their stumbling, carefree attitudes are missing from the touring circuit.  Even if the mumbling sometimes made it tough to know what they were singing about and the drug habits of Doherty made it even more difficult to get them to play anything as a group, the rock fans could use a full-time return of the Libertines.  Although this was their last and record recorded, there is still hope that the Libertines aren’t through with their clamoring style yet.

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