The Libertines – [Album]

Sunday, 21 October 2007

I'm not going to undermine the significance of a band as massively influential and talented as The Libertines, but a 'Best Of' album? I mean c'mon, the band only had two albums of material in the first place…

Luckily, I can't maintain this cynicism; The Libertines are just too goddamn catchy. The original hype surrounding these rockers back in 2001 was as apt as can be, and thankfully, the people that put together this compilation know the band's work well, choosing carefully from both '02's Up the Bracket and '04's The Libertines.

Time for Heroes- the Best of The Libertines displays the band at their finest, leaving behind much of the filler that bogged down parts of the two aforementioned albums. Every song that appears is immediately grabbing, showing off not just the band's energy and aggression, but also their amazing sonic range. The Libertines' success lies in their ability to pull from a number of influences, scrambling together aspects of Britpop, Garage Rock, and Punk in a unique style. They were not quite as dance-y as their US counterparts, The Strokes, nor as clean-cut as the Swedish version, The Hives; but the tension that surrounded The Libertines' short-lived career comes through, creating an immediacy that is hard to overlook. Doherty's slurred croon often comes off as mix between Joe Strummer and Mike Ness, Carl Barat's riffs rock and wail, and the boys in the rhythm section—bassist John Hassal and drummer Gary Powell—feed off each other in a swirl of simple punk and 60s pop to create a grooving feeling all of their own.

Of the songs included, it is hard to find one that doesn't display the rock n' roll prowess of The Libertines. From the poppy riff-driven "Don't Look Back Into the Sun" to the straightforward punk of "Mayday," the band never falters. And the doo-wop swing of "What Katie Did" directly followed by the brash rhythms of the single "Can't Stand Me Now" is a great example of just how versatile these four British punks can be. It can often be easy to overlook Daugherty's mumbles; but the emotionally driven lyrics of "Tell the King" with heartfelt harmonies between Doughty and Barat exposes the fact that these kids were not just talented rock-stars, but skilled songwriters. Fittingly, the album closes with "What Became of the Likely Lads," a poppy song mixed with now ironic lyrics: "what became of the likely lads/ what became of the dreams we had/ we'll never know." A wink and nod at the fact that The Libertines' 2004 implosion leaves a big unknown at what could have been accomplished on a third album.

Time for Heroes succeeds as a compilation album, offering a well-rounded view of one of the best bands to emerge out of England during modern times. It would have been nice had they decided to include some unreleased bonus tracks for those that had already listened to both previous records; for those that have yet to experience The Libertines, this is a definite must own.


Time for Heroes- the Best of The Libertines is out December 4, 2007 on Rough Trade records.

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