Everybody has, or should have, a band that they follow. For me, that band is The Libertines. Started in London in 1997 by Carl Barat and Pete Doherty, they are a world apart from me. When they started out, I was probably in the least rock n roll environment possible, primary school. Still, discovering a band later on doesn’t discount the passion you can feel for them and now, if the platform allows, permit me to explain a little about why I follow them.
The main reason from the start was the music. “Don’t Look Back Into the Sun” is a banger. At under 3 minutes it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It comes in quiet, finishes with a sound like the band is falling to pieces, and throughout it has that simple but effective riff that gets me every time. The lyrics are different too. It’s like a conversation between the two frontmen. This theme continues throughout their careers. Every solo song I’ve heard by either of them, which are hard to find as they are all squirrelled away on lots of different singles, sounds like they are talking to themselves.
Consider The Babyshambles, Doherty’s split. All of their songs have lost the happy shimmer that was The Libertines. It echoes a time in Doherty’s life when things were not going well, he was in and out of rehab, a popular target of the tabloids, who almost certainly would have treated him like Amy Winehouse if he went. Anyway, Doherty’s performance in the Babyshambles is a lot rougher and less like he’s having a good time. He suffered to make those songs. It’s part of what makes them great. Nobody trusted him in a big budget recording studio so he made Down in Albion in a mate’s flat. It’s a scrappy album, but full of emotional highs and lows. From there onwards here’s a general upward trajectory in the professional production of Doherty’s music, but a bit of a decline as far as raw feeling goes.
It makes sense, raw feeling hurts. You can hear it in Doherty’s voice. Even later
Carl Barat’s work I’m a lot less familiar with. I heard his solo album, Carl Barat, and I’d say it’s a good album but not my absolute favourite out of everything he’s done because the Libertines exist. Anyway, it all sounds like a series of breakup songs, and justifications for breakup songs. I first heard it when I started going out with my first long term girlfriend and I’m pretty sure it made the breakup harder. Cheers, Carl. I needed that.
Undeniably though, the best thing the Libertines did was split up, as it made so many more projects happen. The next best thing they did was get back together, because it made “Heart of the Matter” happen. This song and its accompanying video are perfect for people who’ve followed this band. It shows them at their fucked up best, at each other’s throats, while a peanut-crunching crowd looks on and finds it hilarious. It’s a superb tune, got a brilliant message, and is very rewarding. Definitely give it a shifty.
But there’s something needs to be said about The Libertines and associated acts work. It’s all got this beautiful interplay about life meaning a lot and life meaning nothing. Their whole catalogue is so diverse that it could easily be about just having fun and dicking around, Barat incidentally wrote a tune in Get Him To the Greek, “Gang of Lust”. Getting back to the start, because what’s more pointless or fulfilling than a circle, “Don’t Look Back Into The Sun” is a call to remember the past but not to fixate on it. Acknowledge it happened and appreciate the fun reminders but move on, let go, and find a new source of heat and life.
Fed up with life and the way things were going, the writer of this piece is seriously considering shifting blogging sites as WordPress has been dicking him around a bit. Hopefully the tech guys can see to it and this will just stay as a historic reminder.
Still writing daily and amazed that he just did 600 words on the Libertines with no formal musical knowledge of mention of Pete Doherty’s poetry knowledge, the writer can be found on Twitter @FjDhorn