The Libertines – Up The Bracket
Rough Trade Records (2002)
By Joe Vallejos
It’s taken a while for me to reconcile my feelings on The Libertines’ debut disc, Up The Bracket. The hype machine has been churning on this British quartet for months before its release. With the early release of a single (“What a Waster”), which may be one of the finer songs released in years AND the fact that Up The Bracket is produced by legendary Clash guitarist Mick Jones (except the aforementioned “What a Waster” produced by former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler,) you could color this scribe excited.
The Libertines have been called a British version of The Strokes. This assessment is fairly accurate, except they are even less polished. Perhaps a more accurate comparison would be early records by the Jam because they have a certain roughness combined with catchy melodies. Fuzzy, ramshackle guitars provide the framework for the thirteen songs.
Lyricists Karl Barat and Pete Doherty write their songs, at least some of them, in a style reminiscent of Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Brett Anderson of Suede and Morrissey, among others. They seem to tell a story in prose that’s immediately identifiable as British. From “What a Waster,” for example; “hat a divvie/what a fuckin’ div/Talking like a moron/walking like a spiv.” The definitions for divvie and spiv are unclear, but here’s a guess – they’re unflattering cockney slang.
Sounds like a pretty good album, huh? Success is a function of expectations and judging from the four songs heard before I bought the disc, prospects were high for Up The Bracket. Unfortunately, the rest of the songs don’t match these standards, with a couple being close to unlistenable. The Libertines have shown potential to make outstanding songs, but their first full-length effort is uneven. They’re still worth watching for in the future, but temper your expectations a bit. – (7/10)