(Rough Trade, 2006)
I didn't follow the Libertines, and my only reaction to Pete Doherty's ongoing personal drama is to think that he's a bit of a throwback, now that our taste for excess is fed largely by fallen Disney employees, while most "rockers" are more inventive at creating new business plans than destroying their lives. He's a throwback musically as well, which must be why Mick Jones (who produced) and older critics love him. There's no denying that he's internalized 40 years of formal moves to a remarkable degree, covering both a decent variety of harmonic language (the Smiths are now part of the assumed background of this sort of thing as much as the Kinks; see "Back From the Dead") and his casual vocal phrasing, which, if not "natural," does not read as self-conscious. I'm in fact surprised, given what I knew in advance, that there are as many completely formed tracks here, compositionally and sonically, as there are. I will admit that this mainly got played in the car, and I did not closely attend to lyrics -- the one moment that jumped out is in the good-n-negative "Fuck Forever": "I can't tell between death and glory/New Labour and Tory....it's not supposed to be the same." Aside from this and the surprising "Pentonville" which seems to just be Doherty acoustically backing a toast by "The General," who he apparently met in the named North London prison (its "separate system" floorplan for isolating inmates is pictured above.
Beyond the tracks named, what makes the album a bit suspect is that I pretty much "like" it all about equally; there may be other deep cuts that would stand out with more repetition, but many songs, and the disc as a whole, could be about 1/3 shorter with little harm. I've read that this album was received as underproduced, but I suspect that much of the credit for whatever makes this an enjoyable overall listen rests with whoever kept the guitars in tune and dialed in the amp settings. May have to check out last fall's Shotter's Nation, which is allegedly more "together."
Stray thought -- lead guitarist Patrick Warren reminds me a bit of the Only Ones' John Perry, and Doherty is a bit of a Peter Perrett figure. Has this comparison been made much, or are the Ones too forgotten? [Post-Googling update: Oh -- Doherty's been joined on stage by Perrett, and has been known to cover "Another Girl, Another Planet." Well, I may not be behind the curve, but at least my ears aren't bad.]