Quarter Life Crisis

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The Libertines

1208 words on

I am usually a bit slow with the new and upcoming bands. Not so for The Libertines. Thankfully, Dan sent me a CD containing their first and no less than brilliant single What A Waster on a compilation CD before it was even published in Germany. I liked it very much and pre-ordered their Up The Bracket album immediately. And it was a blast. So unashamedly energetic and rough. I still enjoy listening to it.

Consequently I went to see them play in Köln in 2002 and another fraction of a time shortly afterwards in Groningen. Heck, I even based the nicest compilation CD of the last year on What A Waster.

Libertines album cover Thus, the release of The Libertines’ new self-titled album was something to look forward to for me. It’s rare that I’m looking forward to record releases but this was such a time. Of course a lot has happened since their first album. There was the splitting up or not splitting up of the band. There were drugs, or rumours thereof. There was a lot of hype, which will be familiar to anyone reading any music-related writings lately.

Frankly, I don’t know what to make of it. If the stories are true to a certain degree, it’s a little drama. On the one hand, the whole drug thing makes a good rock’n’roll lifestyle story. On the other hand, it’s sad to see a band that managed to sound so promising and great on their first album and the Don’t look back into the Sun single to follow it constantly walk at the brink of self-destruction. As it looks now, The Libertines are playing gigs but they’re playing without Pete. Which seems a bit strange as his singing can be quite special and I wonder how songs work without it.

But let me introduce the new album. Second albums are dangerous. Particularly if the bands are successful and hyped. They tend to ‘mature’, become technically more proficient and less exciting than they could be. Not that there is a problem with all that – but I feel it’s a waste for bands to mature already on their second album. Why not do the dirty rock thing all the way through the fifth and start being sophisticated then?

Is it cruel or kind
not to speak my mind
and to lie to you
rather than hurt you?

The album opens with Can’t stand me now which also is the first single. It’s a nice and catchy song. A bit too catchy perhaps. A lot has been made of the song referring to the band’s struggle of keeping their act together: Have we enough to keep it together? Or do we just keep on pretending and hope our luck is never ending. It is followed by the wonderful Last Post on the Bugle which is my personal favourite by now – reliably on track 2. It’s got a wonderfully addictive guitar motive, some tearing of paper and the drive and breathless singing I like to hear. This is also the first song to feature gratuitous La-la-la-la-la lyrics.

We see such lyrics again in The Man who would be KingAnd to the man who would be king I would say only one thing: La la la-la-la-la, La la la-la-la-laa. and in the relaxed What Katie Did which has whole verses of Shoop, shoop, shoop de-lang de-lang. Good mood by singing – perhaps the thing Björk talks about?

Music when the Lights go out is another great song – perhaps the most moving one on the album. While it starts off a bit on the slow side, there are more noisy bits as well and a good balance is struck for the sentiment of the song.

Is it cruel or kind
not to speak my mind
and to lie to you
rather than hurt you?

Well, I’ll confess all of my sins
after several large gins
but I’ll hide from you
hide what’s inside from you.

And alarm bells ring
when you say your heart still sings
when you’re with me –
Oh would you please forgive me.

I no longer hear the music.
Oh no – no no no no no.

And all the memories of the pubs
and the clubs the drugs and the tubs
we shared together –
will stay with me forever.

But all the highs and the lows
and the tos and the fros
they left me dizzy –
Oh won’t you please forgive me?

I no longer hear the music.
Oh no.

I no longer hear the music when the lights go out
Love goes cold in the shades of doubt
The strange fate in my mind is all too clear.
Music when the lights come on
The girl I thought I knew has gone
and with her my heart, it disappeared.

I no longer hear the music.
Oh no.

And all the memories of the fights and nights
and the blue lights and all the kites
we flew together –
I thought they’d fly forever.

But all the highs and the lows
and the tos and the fros
they left me dizzy –
won’t you forgive me?

I no longer hear the music.
Well, I no longer hear the music.
Oh no.

I no longer hear the music when the lights go out
Love goes cold in the shades of doubt
The strange fate in my mind is all too clear.
Music when the lights come on
The girl I thought I knew has gone
and with her my heart, it disappeared.

I no longer hear the music.
Oh no.
I no longer hear the music.

The Libertines – Music When the Lights go out

It follows Narcissist which is a fast bit of fun and The Ha Ha Wall which seems too controlled and could be a bit rougher. As could be the potentially great Campaign of Hate. The same is true for Don’t be Shy, Tomblads and The Saga all of which I found a bit boring. Road to Ruin is a bit on the slow side as well but has a more blues-ish touch to it. A nice song which doesn’t fit in too well.

Then there is Arbeit macht Frei, which is a very rough and short gem of a song. Without doubt people will find that it treats a grave topic a bit too easily, though. At least in Germany we’ve learned that this can be dangerous ground to tread on.

The album closes in the solid What became of the Likely Lads and as a bonus contains the acoustic piece France just following it.

And that’s it. 14 songs and 42 minutes of music. Not quite as good as Up the Bracket, but not as ‘mature’ as I had feared. Perhaps the complete album would have been better, had it only been ten songs in half an hour. Many songs sound like they’re autobiographical for the band and quite a few were already available in early and poorly recorded versions in the Babyshambles sessions.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll figure things out.

Oh what became of the Likely Lads?
What became of the dreams we had?

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

September 5, 2004, 17:46

Tagged as music.

Comments

Comment by Brandon: User icon

Excellent.

One of my other friends recommended them as well. Well, that track at least. Good stuff.

September 6, 2004, 5:51

Comment by Anonymous: User icon

i dont know what the fuck i am on here

August 16, 2005, 1:05

Comment by Clod: User icon

I LOVE THIS ALBUM!!!!!!

August 23, 2005, 12:02

Comment by ashleigh: User icon

the libertines are bloody fantastic!!!!!…..such a shame that pete doherty ain’t a part no more…..but he’s still doing well with babyshambles. My fav. song on the album would be “ARBEIT MACHT FREI”….the beat, the voice, the strings….just BRILLIANT!

November 18, 2005, 18:40

Comment by amazed: User icon

my favourite song is maybe i’m amazed by paul mccartney. it’s simply fantastic and shows how one really writes and executes a song.

January 6, 2006, 18:52

Comment by jimmy: User icon

Whothe fuck wrote this review? U Dont give the album the praise it needs recearch sme of the lyrics then you might see why the songs are slow but never boring, the album is full of energy. It is a documentation of the libertines falling apart.

March 29, 2007, 17:04

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