The Libertines debut album Up The Bracket is one to be remembered. Fronted by Pete Doherty, Carl Barat, Gary Powell and John Hassall, the London quartet proves that they are a band to watch in the future with their mixture of punk and rock influences. Produced by the legendary Mick Jones of The Clash, Up The Bracket has re-introduced teenagers to a new concept of rock music.
The mid 90’s was a disaster for guitar music as pop became more dominant in the charts and on the shelves. Even the latter 90’s of British music was in a state of decline; haunted by the Brit-pop era of Oasis and Blur. However as the sun set on the 20th century, the dawn of modern rock was established. Fronted by The Strokes and The Libertines, a new generation of music was introduced to the media, to the critics, and most importantly to the music-lovers.
The Libertines early intention as a band was to become signed by a major label. When they formed in 2000, they started to gather a following; playing impromptu gigs at band members apartments. Not only did this make a strong foundation of friendship with their fans but helped put across their image. This image was soon strengthened as Doherty used the Internet as an alternative means of communication with his fans. This act illustrated two things. The influence Doherty could have on people through the message boards, and that he could always be in touch with someone. As the release of Up The Bracket came, The Libertines following increased dramatically as their scheduled gigs soon became fast sell outs. Mick Jones realized he had started a revolution, just like he had done with The Clash.
Despite the two major influences on Up The Bracket of Carl Barat and Pete Doherty, the ex-front man of The Clash shows up notably on one track. Horror Show is a brilliant song captivating the punk roots of the band. “Sharply screw myself to death”. The visceral lyrics of Horror Show talk about the effects of alcohol and drugs on the body. Although Doherty knew of their consequences he would continue to keep using throughout the band’s journey. The range of genres covered in Up The Bracket meant they could appeal to all sides of the spectrum. The parallels of alcohol and drugs that are so evident between The Clash and The Libertines were what made Mick Jones the perfect person to produce the perfect album.
Up The Bracket’s release in 2002 was surrounded by the returns of both Foo Fighter and Coldplay. Therefore the band did not get the press coverage it deserved. But did they want the press coverage? As no one knew who the band was, preconceptions were hard to be made by any of the newspapers. They could only be judged on what they sounded like. Today everyone knows Pete Doherty as that addicted junkie who went out with Kate Moss. However from songs like Boys In The Band and The Good Old Days it was clear he knew how to write a song that could have many levels of interpretation. Boys In The Band is a brilliant post-modern tune, which is an ode to the groupie. “And they all get them out … for the boys in the band” The arrogance of such a chorus leads the listener to assume it’s talking about the sex. However according to the band’s biography, The Libertines: Bound Together, it is more about the alcohol. About a week after the release of Up The Bracket the band were launched.
As everyone became accustomed to the excess number of gigs, drugs and alcohol surrounding the album, soon the visions of Doherty and Barat surfaced. I Get Along is a definite highlight which uses the clearest of vocals of Barat to send a message to the band’s critics. “People tell me I’m wrong … fuck ’em”. The lyrics define what a Libertine is – a free thinker. There were no rules, and no place in society for The Libertines and in Doherty’s case it gave him the ability to do what he wanted, when he wanted.
Starting to treat himself (and Barat) to various drugs, the media were soon constantly surrounding the band. Doherty whose influences range from Emily Bronte to Morrissey, believed that he was on the ship “Albion” which sailed to “Arcadia” – where there are no rules or authority. The vision is instantly recognizable in (name of song) off Up The Bracket. (Up The Bracket lyrics insert here). Doherty resembles his vision as the journey of The Libertines, but as he and Barat became increasingly aware of each others presence other terms soon developed. “Death On The Stairs” is both a song and a phrase (thought up by Barat) to define people who grow old and do nothing but watch television. “Don’t bring that ghost around to my door” The song illustrates how the band wanted to be kept as far away from the term as possible. Ironically the band, especially Pete, would indulge in the drugs and the alcohol which would lead to their demise. But at that moment The Libertines could do no wrong.
The majority of their praise came from the major music magazines, front lined by NME who crowned them best breakthrough band in 2002. The Libertines were propelled into the fast-life involving drink, drugs and gigs. Yet they were still able to establish a relationship with there fans. Time For Heroes demonstrates how they saw themselves as “the rescuer” of there own generation – “We’ll die in the class we were born”. Doherty’s attitude seemed to demonstrate how the band was more for the music than for the money. Although being made up of a drummer, a bassist, and two on guitar, The Libertines still made their intentions heard on Up The Bracket. The different rhythms accompanied to each song on the album showed that they were a raw talent.
The distinctive voice of The Libertines was not how they sounded, but what they said. To communicate with their audience, some of the songs used very colloquial lyrics. “What a divvy, what a fucking divvy” Doherty use of bad language didn’t make any of the songs sound violent, but instead more intelligent. In What A Waster (the debut single) Doherty despite having 6 A* grades and 5 A’s at GCSE, used very colloquial expressions. This turned out to be a stroke of genius. Although heavily criticised by almost everyone, What A Waster captivated its teenage audience. The debut song had managed to do what punk and rock ‘n roll was all about – get them heard nationally and piss off everyone at the same time.
The Libertine’s Up The Bracket not only re-introduced rock music from a different perspective, but proved to be a catalyst for the younger generations. Currently Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys and The Kooks are helping proceed with what The Libertines had started – getting more and more teens to enjoy music, and the life that comes with it.
By Joel Girling