The Libertines do not waste your time. The infectious racket of Up the Bracket does not waste your time. The Libs, in fact, are the very model of an economical pop machine working in the klieg lights of hype-bathing bands whose names start with “the.” It’s tempting enough to put the Libertines in the context of the Hives, the Datsuns and, most instructively, the Strokes. So, here goes: They are the UK’s great pasty-skinned, tousle-haired hope for hit-and-run pop music that tips a hat to punk. ’Cept, of course, the Libertines actually appear to be lacking the anti-pretension pretense that makes the aforementioned bands foregone conclusions of rock mediocrity.
Frankly, the Libertines are most like some sonic echo of all that was once great about the infectious Kinks-punk plundering Supergrass once did so well. Here’s a thought: What if the Stiff Little Fingers covered “Til There Was You”? What would happen if Billy Bragg had only recorded “A New England” and he had done it with the Clash? Hmm.
Um, did we mention that Mick Jones produced this record? He did a good job not fucking up the Libertines’ mojo — tweaking the volume here, keeping the rhythm front and center even when it’s frantic, and allowing vocalist M. Barat to weave his feckless charm.
What’s that line about lying in the gutter with the stars in your eyes? Yeah, that’s the Libertines. It’s disposable if you want it to be, but it’s without a doubt classic pop music presented (as it should be) in the context of a larger hoopla. Sure there’ll be just as many copies of the record in the used bin as Is This It? but what the hell does that matter for the next two minutes, anyway?
E-mail Chris Handyside at firstname.lastname@example.org.