1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005 edition)
This is a very sad album. It's like listening to two people you love arguing in the next room. The Libertines, Britain's best new band, fall apart in front of your ears.
"Can't Stand Me Now" is a great start and a perfect example of why they were so refreshing. Carl Barat and Pete Doherty were a classic song writing team, whose contrasting styles (and voices) complemented each other brilliantly. Tracks like the exhilarating thrash punk of "Arbeit Macht Frei" and the astute social observation of "Campaign Of Hate" shows just how much we need them. They deserve an award just for keeping the English language alive. When did you last hear the phrase 'the cut of my jib' in a song?
The music is much the same as the first album: raw, scratchy, bare bones guitar and a hyperactive rhythm section. The Clash's Mick Jones doesn't really produce, he just records what's there. It's all about the songs, the strength of the tunes and their unique vision of British life.
Pete Doherty's personal difficulties have been well documented. He sounds like a man who knows something's wrong but is struggling to put it right. His vocal on "Don't Be Shy" is loose and incoherent. Like three or four other songs, it rambles and grinds to a halt, as though it hasn't been finished properly. Pete lashes out angrily on "The Saga" at the vultures feeding on his situation and denies he has any problems. It's a fantastic song, but he does have problems.
Carl obviously cares deeply for his best friend. But by the end of the album you feel he has given up. The final track, "What Became Of The Likely Lads?", is heartbreaking. Carl gently chides Pete one more time, they reflect on their shared dreams and wonder how it all went wrong. There doesn't seem to be any way back.
This is a compelling, voyeuristic listen. It's almost a classic album. But what a terrible waste of a great band.