The Libertines are as English as the Sid James dialogue they quote in their lyrics...
Nick Reynolds 2002
Up the Bracket is the assured debut of the most debauched newcomers on the rock scene for some time: the Libertines.
The Libertines are as English as the Sid James dialogue they quote in their lyrics. Not for them the trappings of nu metal or modern rock. Instead they play it fast and tight and scruffy round the edges. The result is charming: twelve short, funny, fast songs about English life with fuzzy guitars and good tunes. It could have been made in 1966 or 1977.
But they don't sound particularly nostalgic or sentimental. The "Good Old Days", name checking Queen Bodecia, denies that the good old days were any good and demands that they have their own time. They aren't straining hard to recapture a beat group ambience or recreate a classic sound. They just get on with telling it like they see it. And what they see includes riots as well as bare bottoms, blood and class war as well as romance, ("Time For Heroes"). They're witty with a healthy streak of vulgarity.
It's the intelligence and the energy that makes this album work. "Horrorshow", a song that touches on heroin use, features a suitably twisted vocal. Sometimes they're sarcastic but always fun and with a high proportion of tunes that stick in your head ("Boys in the Band"). They're having a laugh but they are not trying too hard to entertain us.
Rough Trade are unlikely to sell as many copies of this as they did of the Strokes debut. The Libertines are not cool or fashionable enough. Instead they are casual and rough and ready. But they do share a back to basics, song driven approach and they convince.
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