The Truth Leaked, Let's Go Blow a Horn and be Merry on Mead


Mar 11 2007, 6h50

A great article that really is very good and highlights what is very important, which is The Librtines are an important band and an excellent band.

After The Libertines: What today's bands owe Carl and Pete
By Anthony Thornton
Published: 09 March 2007

In November 2002, as albums by Gareth Gates, Sum 41 and Westlife dominated the charts, the debut album by a new British guitar band arrived unheralded on record store shelves. Given downbeat reviews by the British press, it staggered to No 35 in the charts. The following week it limped out, having bothered the charts only briefly, like a scruffy gatecrasher at an exclusive party.

That should have been that: another British guitar band unable to find a welcome in charts that seemed the preserve of TV talent contest winners, American nu metal and boybands. Yet, five years on, The Libertines' Up the Bracket is considered to be year zero for the current crop of successful Britrockers.

The charts today are very different. Nu metal is finished, and a reality TV show winner is no longer guaranteed success. Post-Libertines bands rule the charts: Sheffield's Arctic Monkeys came up with the fastest-selling debut album of all time, Whatever I Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, selling more than 1.5 million; Brighton's The Kooks have sold 1.2 million records with Inside In/Inside Out; The Fratellis, from Glasgow, have sold 750,000 copies of Costello Music; and the self-titled debut album by Dundee's The View crashed in at No 1 in January, selling more than 200,000 records in just three weeks.

Luke Pritchard, the lead singer of The Kooks, thinks music has undergone a seismic change in the past five years. "When we started out, we felt that the music business was vacuous," he says. "We're in a period of transition. It's come round to music again."

The Libertines wanted to be an important band, but they could not have predicted the impact they would have. The singer and guitarist Carl Barât regretfully split The Libertines in 2004 after a rancorous falling-out with his songwriting partner Pete Doherty. Barât's parting words after the band's final concert were for the fans rather than the media. "It's your turn, really," he said. "All the people who've come to our gigs and picked up a guitar, all the people who say they've liberated themselves... I look forward to what you come up with."

And they certainly came up with something. Alan McGee, who signed Oasis and managed The Libertines for their last 18 months, says: "The Kooks and The Fratellis and The View are probably the bands you can most call 'post-Libertine'. The Kooks are like a poppy Doherty - they sound like The Libertines' acoustic demos. The View are Up the Bracket-period Libertines, and The Fratellis have just got that Libertines stomp."

Doherty is now better known for dating Kate Moss and his dissolute lifestyle, but for a generation of music fans and musicians, it's the music of his former band that's important. While Doherty's exploits have been splashed across the media, the bands that followed The Libertines have quietly become big.

These bands have a homespun sensibility that seems at odds with their massive record sales. It's this attitude - which The Libertines had in spades - that's the key to their success. McGee is delighted. "People needed a year and a half [after The Libertines split] for it to make sense," he says. "But when they got it, it meant that you could forget scummy pop like Robbie Williams and Coldplay. It was a kick in the balls for celebrity culture and reality TV."

James Endeacott of 1965 records, who signed The View, believes The Libertines were the impetus behind his band. "The View say that Oasis made them want to be in a band. The Libertines made them realise that it was possible," he says.

These bands don't sound as if they've been produced to sell to an international market; these are homegrown songs that, most importantly, sound homegrown. Accents are authentically British, as are the references. Take The Fratellis' "Chelsea Dagger", which reached No 5 in the charts. It has knockabout charm and a scuffed-up chorus that could only have come from Britain. It's part-"Lambeth Walk" and part-football terrace chant; if anyone outside the UK had a crack at it, it would sound as convincing as Dick Van Dyke's cockney chimney-sweep in Mary Poppins.

At the turn of the millennium, top sellers such as Coldplay, Stereophonics and Travis produced lyrics made up of vague emotional gestures. In contrast, the lyrics of the post-Libertines set are masterclasses in the delights of British parochial pleasures.

McGee is adamant that this is a change for the better. "For these bands, lyrics are far more important than they were five years ago," he says. "They're observational, about real experiences. You can feel the spirit of The Libertines' grounded romanticism from songs like 'Time For Heroes' or 'Good Old Days'."

The View's No 3 hit "Same Jeans" is about dressing down to go to an indie disco; the Arctic Monkeys' "A Certain Romance" is as damning and harrowing a description of a weekend night in a British town centre as The Jam's "That's Entertainment"; and The Kooks even had a single featuring that most British of icons, a sofa, named with a refreshing literalness, "Sofa Song". There's not much likelihood that they'll be recording a US version called "Couch Song". Pritchard says: "I try to keep my lyrics very honest. I hate people pretending to be something they're not."

Musically, with a post-Libertine band, there's a prevalence of tinny guitars with a trebly register that sound as though the band had just strolled in off the street and plugged in. And an acoustic guitar is never out far away for all but the Arctic Monkeys. "In the late Nineties, it was hip-hop and dance culture; now it's all about songwriting," Pritchard says.

The production may have a little more oomph than The Libertines, but the origins can't be disguised. Even McGee is impressed. "It's just great songs," he says. "It doesn't matter who recorded them. When I play The View or Arctic Monkeys at a club, the place goes mental."

Equally, the imagery of the post-Libertines bands is derived from the jumbled British aesthetic of Barât's group. The cover photo of the Arctic Monkeys' debut album - a bloke smoking a fag - is kitchen-sink realism; The Kooks hang out in a Withnail and I-style flat in the video of "Naive"; The Fratellis' covers are illustrated with saucy Alberto Vargas-style pin-ups; and The View's cut-and-paste cover art is Sex Pistols meets MySpace.

But perhaps the thing that most marks these bands out as post-Libertines is their attitude towards the fans. Traditionally, bands see fans as a necessary evil: they make sure that once the show's over there is an invite-only aftershow before taking themselves off to the hotel. "The social aspect is so important," McGee says. "The Libertines never differentiated between an NME journalist or a fan - everyone was the same."

Endeacott agrees. "When I was a kid watching Bowie and Bolan, they seemed distant and untouchable. The Libertines erased the barrier between fans and band. The View are a total fans' band; they do it for the 250 kids in front. They're all their mates. It's all about friends and family for them. When they're out, they meet their fans. It's not us and them. The View got that from The Libertines."

The Arctic Monkeys, the biggest of the lot, should - according to rock cliché - be riding Harleys up and down Sunset Strip in LA and hanging out with supermodels. In fact, they always find time for the fans. Whether it's putting on small, secret shows, going out to indie discos, or - as happened a month ago - giving an impromptu preview of a new song at a clothes shop in Sheffield, they're thinking about the fans precisely because they know exactly what it's like to be one.

Strangely, the former Libertines themselves have yet to taste the success of the bands they inspired. Their own post-Libertines bands, Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things, have so far sold a fraction of the numbers of records by other post-Libertines groups. Even The Libertines' own records haven't hit such stellar heights. McGee feels that this is the inevitable fate of pioneers. "The Libertines' biggest-selling record was the self-titled second album. It sold 300,000 in the UK, but their influence was monumental," he says.

"It was like The Clash; until 'Combat Rock' they were a massive influence, but without the sales to match. It was strange with The Libertines, as no one saw it coming, but they changed music, probably for the next 10 years. I don't think Pete and Carl even realise what they've done."

So have The Libertines joined that elite strata of bands, like the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls, who inspired hundreds of bands but never became million-sellers? Even if that's so, McGee is convinced of their importance. "There's nothing wrong with being the inventors of a formula. They were such an iconic band, and all iconic bands get their rewards. In 20 years' time, people will still be buying those Libs records. I don't know if they'll be buying The Fratellis, but that's not a bad thing. Pop culture is supposed to move really fast."

It would appear that The Libertines are already getting major recognition, though. A recent poll by the British Book of Hit Albums and Singles put Up the Bracket at No 15 in a chart of the best albums of all time, while NME put the album at No 10 in a list of the best British albums of all time. That's not at all bad for a record that made the short hop from the release schedule to the bargain bins.

'The Libertines: Bound Together' by Anthony Thornton is published by Time Warner Books (£6.99)
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  • wangdexian

    Fuck that comment about bowie and bolan!!!!! Well, I don't like such bands... but it'still more tolerable than emo I guess... and that's... good?

    Mar 11 2007, 15h47
  • daghka

    These bands are hands down way better than those silly rubbish that tends to be served up everyone's throat, namely Oasis and Coldplay. This is called music, awesome music from Great Britain.

    Mar 11 2007, 17h00
  • musesic

    i love the libertines! babyshambles and dirty pretty things just doesn't feel the same. and i have to agree, music from great britain is much better than the states, and i do like oasis somehow, i guess it's cos of the hardcore character of liam which is kinda cool. hehe.

    Mar 12 2007, 19h53
  • daghka

    His interviews are interesting, his music isn't. The Oasis album was the first I recalled buying, the one titled Be Here Now. I bought it in like Primary 3 or something. I won't say british music is necessarily better than the U.S, U.S is cool too, not as cool as Canda, but still cool.

    Mar 12 2007, 21h12
  • wangdexian

    Brit Metal and Glam > Brit Indie Be Here Now is an awful album... my friend sent me this package from the US? I've got it... the songs from the first two albums are really good

    Mar 13 2007, 4h08
  • daghka

    I have the entire Oasis discography, I've heard it and still never liked it. I thought it was ridiculous, and then I checked that Oasis did not want it to be ridiculous and then decided it was all pointless and cock music. Those bands, I won't call them indie, for it is a word I don't like, bring back the spirit of British music, especially in rock n' roll, they add the British feel to it, you can literally feel the Union Jack in their songs, not in a nationalistic way, but it their style. They are on relatively big labels, so indie is not a term to describe the. Kickass British Rock N' Roll is he word at the moment, at least for me.

    Mar 13 2007, 7h12
  • wangdexian

    Manowar are more british than all of them combined... and hell they ain't even british

    Mar 13 2007, 16h12
  • daghka

    That's quite true actually, pure British Metal......true metal....

    Mar 13 2007, 16h22
  • musesic

    lol, be here now sucks balls. definitely maybe is their best album in my opinion, followed by what's the story morning glory. oasis as you've have said, shldnt be called indie, but libertines are indie, along with babyshambles and dirty pretty things. i read that pete doesnt mean collaborating with carl again and vice versa.

    Mar 14 2007, 12h08
  • daghka

    I've read that too, it'll be cool if that happens...

    Mar 14 2007, 13h45
  • musesic

    i just found this. it's quite a long ago story. it's pete's mum talking bout him. lol, quite a touching story.

    Mar 16 2007, 5h11
  • daghka

    woah, that's interesting...

    Mar 16 2007, 10h17
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