Although better known these days for tabloid headlines and tales of drugs hell, behind the soap opera of The Libertines lies an enormously talented band.
Their first album, Up the Bracket, spoke of real life in London and gave glimpses of hope. “Time for Heroes”, one of the most popular songs on the album, was inspired by the May Day riots of 2001.
They have also been involved in encouraging and inspiring new rock bands by promoting them in their support slots.
Produced, like their debut, by Mick Jones of The Clash, their self titled second album deals mainly with their lives between the first album and the second.
Opening track “Can’t Stand Me Now” talks of the sequence of events last year that culminated in singer Pete Doherty’s arrest and imprisonment for burgling bandmate Carl Barat’s flat.
Closing song “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?” is a row between Carl and Pete and a lament to lost friendship.
It leaves a question mark over the band’s future, even though it was recorded before recent events that saw Pete “suspended” from the band for his drugs habit.
In between, the album is packed with brilliant music and intelligent lyrics. We hear the punk blast of “Arbeit Macht Frei”, a history lesson that also looks at racism today.
If, as seems likely, this is to be the last album The Libertines release, it’s a fitting testimony to the pressures that drove them apart, and a sad reminder of their potential.