MORRISSEY and Marr. Page and Plant. Lennon and McCartney. Great British songwriting duos who have produced some timeless and classic hits. Next to these well-dressed individuals stand two dirty high boys from London, each sporting tattoos and clutching cigarettes. I am, of course, talking about Carl Barât and Peter Doherty. Along with Gary Powell and John Hassall, they make up The Libertines, one of the most important bands to come out of Britain since Big Ben struck midnight on January 1st of the year 2000. Along with The Strokes and The Vines, The Libertines were one of the key bands in the Garage Rock Revival of the early Noughties.
With this revival came Up the Bracket, a proverbial spit in the face to anyone who told them what to do. Produced by Mick Jones of The Clash, Up the Bracket is an album that draws directly from that British punk heritage, as well as the garage rock sensibility of The Strokes, whose debut was released merely a year before The Libertine’s own. Releasing the double A-side ‘What a Waster’ and ‘Get Along’, the latter of which became the closing track on the album, the band received little airplay. However, the NME happily latched on to the group, almost in an attempt to find ‘the British Strokes’. While Up the Bracket is very much in the same ball park as Is This It, there’s something distinctly rougher about the former that makes it what it is.
While Julian Casablanca’s monotonous voice, very much like that of Lou Reed’s, drove through The Strokes’ songs, the joint vocals of Barât and Doherty lend to the anarchic atmosphere of the album, one the Sex Pistols would be proud of. Just listen to ‘Horror Show’ or ‘The Boy Looked at Johnny’ and you’ll see why. Their guitar work echoes their voices in the sharp, raucous solos that pierce through nearly every song on the album. Of course, not all of the credit can be passed on to the joint frontmen. John Hassall’s bass playing is spot on, notably on album opener ‘Vertigo’, where bass arpeggios produce a serious hook. Gary Powell’s drumming is flawless and compliments the rest of the band extremely well. As a result of this, Up the Bracket contains alt-rock anthems that echoed through the ages; to this day ‘Time for Heroes’ still sends people into a frenzy. Their 2010 and 2014 reunion shows prove the influence is still there.
The Garage Rock Revival fizzled out after a few years. The Rapture and The White Stripes split up, The Strokes made Angles and British music moved on to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party. The Libertines split in 2004 after Doherty’s continuing drug problems tore his partnership with Barât apart. To this day though, young musicians still turn to Up the Bracket as a source for inspiration. Like an alt-rock bible, Up the Bracket is a timeless record; an earworm that will work its way into any musician’s brain.
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