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The Libertines return with strong sophomore effort

Scoop Lattal | Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Libertines released its self-titled, sophomore album last month after multiple visits to rehab and potential breakups. The first track, “Can’t Stand Me Now,” is comparable to one of Fleetwood Mac’s last songs, “Go Your Own Way” in its subject matter. The song is about a relationship in doubt and fits well with the controversy surrounding lead singer, Pete Doherty’s problems with cocaine addiction and his volatile relationship with the rest of the band: “An ending fitting for the start/You twist and tore our love apart.” Like many pop albums, this first song is among the best – partly because bands put their better material up front, but mostly because the sound is fresh. The 13 songs that follow the opener range from so-so to exceptional. The momentum “Can’t Stand Me Now” creates, however, gives the album reasonable hope.This album, influenced by the production of Clash member, Mick Jones, is similar to mainstream Clash and lots of other early 80s British pop punk. Quick, charming drum rhythms support well-produced, garage-style Brit-punk. Guitars play single notes in place of chords at every moment possible to imitate vocal lines. Distortion is a rarity, especially compared to American produced punk. Bass is more imaginative than simply following the lead guitars, but does not steal too much attention from the rest of the band.Guitar solos are common but not exhausted or over dramatic. The solo closing “Road to Ruin” is simple yet imaginative. The notes never move extremely fast, nor are they unpredictable, but they fit well with the melody of the track. “Music When the Lights Go Out” uses both acoustic guitar and horns, providing a contrast to the rest of the songs halfway through the album. The romantic tone of the lead guitar proceeding into a blues rock chorus makes this track unique.Like The Hives, The Libertines rarely stray from its distinct sound. But while The Hives write short, snappy songs with little time to catch your breath, The Libertines mix up tempos and songwriting styles to provide some diversity. Although many of the Libertines’ songs sound similar at the beginning, most tracks pursue different paths later on. “Last Call on the Bugle,” starts with the common high, repeated guitar notes. The “poppy” level of the main melody reaches the “Tragic Kingdom” era of No Doubt: “If I have to go, I will be thinking of your love. La-la-la-la-la.” In contrast to this, “Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Brings Freedom),” the shortest song on the album, combines the Mooney Suzuki style of punk power chords and the oldies style of starting and stopping the drums as a cadence.The Libertines are not looking to create an innovative or revolutionary album. As a pop album, the songwriting is nothing new or out of the ordinary, but the songs are catchy and will get your foot tapping. The Libertines will never outdo or replace The Clash, but the comparison is at least worthy.British pop punk bands have written this album before, combining pop, punk and blues. It was good then, and it is good now. Sometimes you do not need to add anything special into the mix if you are already using high quality ingredients.Other rock albums have and will come out this year that are better, but for fans of British punk or garage punk, The Libertines is a good, safe buy.