REVIEW: Libertines: Up the Bracket
The Libertines: Up the Bracket [EMI/Rough Trade, 2003] (sample)
Three words? Trying too hard.
A year after the garage rock revival, only a couple of the artists who made headlines are still considered relevant: The Strokes (currently recording their next album with producer Nigel Godrich) and The White Stripes (whose much hyped Elephant will be on store shelves by the time you read this).
Enter The Libertines, a British quartet whose 2002 Rough Trade album has been picked up by EMI for an American release. You may remember Rough Trade as the label who released the Last Nite single by The Strokes, rocketing them to stardom in 2001. Up The Bracket - bolstered by The Clash's Mick Jones on production - rode a similar wave of British press adulation. The product? An overly earnest attempt at the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street-era rock songs, with punk sensibilities.
The album starts off promisingly with "Vertigo," a high energy rave-up complete with hand claps. It quickly builds steam and delivers finely - "Vertigo" is The Kinks with Keith Richards on guitar. It’s a shame that the following five songs take such a terrible tumble. "Horrorshow" is a faux-punk abomination; "Time For Heroes" is ruined by terrible lyrics; and the acoustic "Radio America" is so underproduced it sounds like a demo. Another problem is The Libertines front man (nameless in the liner-notes). By oversinging on so many of the tracks, things feel chugging, bland, limp. Up the Bracket picks up again toward the end of the record (particularly with the title track), but the rest of the album, again, fails to live up to expectations.
It is somewhat telling that the disc's best track, "Tell The King" is a soft, pop-driven number with a killer chorus riff. It is also the most accomplished song on the album, leaving the impression that the others were rushed in a hurry to get a record finished. If The Libertines indulged in the more pop oriented aspect of their songwriting - and if the singer held back more often - they would have delivered an album well worth the praise. Unfortunately, what we’re left with are barely average songs and a band screaming for attention.