A collection that is always compelling and leaves you wishing there could have been...
Sonja D'Cruze 2007
It seems somewhat pointless to run into a huge laboured description of what to expect from this album, which pulls together the 'best bits' of Albion's favourite likely lads. This record does exactly what it says on the tin.
We are treated to thirteen tracks of debauched, infectious, ramshackle rock, all perfectly executed in fast, tight, short, scruffy songs with a distinct, sensitive and heartfelt charm all of their own. With the Clash's Mick Jones on production duties for both the band’s epochal debut, Up The Bracket and feted self-titled No 1 album, there’s a timely reminder of legends such as The Clash that have gone before, but this is never something Pete Doherty and Carl Barat ever denied. They wore their atavistic English band influences on their sleeves, but it's the autobiographical lyrics from these two songwriters which stamp this genius collection of intoxicating grimy rhythms as truly their own.
Around the scruffy edges of these loveable tracks there are also tales of romance: "What Katie Did" and "A Time For Heroes" shot through with melancholic bliss. Influences keep coming on the title track, with its roaring punk energy, which bleeds into "I Get Along"; the catchy "Boys In The Band" is another solid inclusion. It was an intelligent and fun debut that ran without stabilizers, the band always threatening to descend into mayhem. We loved them for that off-kilter live sound and the fact that you know there was nothing else these four lads could be doing but making music.
No matter how good their music was, part of the Libertines' voyeuristic attraction was the tension between vocalists Doherty and Barat. With Doherty's rock 'n' roll drug addiction eventually becoming the fifth member of the band, what’s delivered on their follow up album is a brief but explosive history of the band’s story so far. The regrets, fights and drugs are all in there, making for the stand-out track, "Can't Stand Me Now". Here Pete's love affair with heroin is laid bare: “You shut me up and blamed it on the brown”. "What Became Of The Likely Lads" meanwhile turned back to the love-hate affair of the songwriters: 'The blood runs thicker, we’re as think as thieves'.
There's no inclusion of punk tunes "Arbeit Macht Frei" and "The Ha Ha Wall"; they fit in the context of the album but don't really work as stand-alone tracks. Other absences include the less successful "Don't Be Shy" and "Road To Ruin".
Unhinged, heartfelt and sometimes ugly in its truth, this is a collection that is always compelling and leaves you wishing there could have been just one more album.