This record isn't simply an album. It's the end of the begginning for the painful romance and sprawling saga that is the destructive relationship of Carl Barat and Pete Doherty. So much has been written about the Libertines since the release of their classic debut Up The Bracket, that anything else I say is completely irrelavent; love them or hate them, the band have already passed into legend as not only one of the best bands the world has ever seen, but as one of the great rock n roll stories of all time. But amongst all this hype and classic excess, it's easy to forget that the Libertines make fantastic music. And this album is about the terrible tension, mounting emotions, and tragic love of gifted band leaders, Carl Barat and Pete Doherty, who are torn apart by drugs, The lyrics are unsettingly autobiographical, but also touchingly beautiful.
Album opener Can't Stand Me Now kicks things off in style. Carl Barat muses on his bandmates "Light fingers" that "Threw the dark, shattered the lamp and into darkness cast us" he says, speaking of when Pete broke into his flat. Pete responds with the albums most quotable line: "The boy kicked out at the world, the world kicked back alot f****** harder" They then launch into a chorus of "You can't stand me now" Carl sings bitterly, while for Pete it sounds like agony.
Next comes "Last Post on the Bugle" And you are suddenly hit by the fact that you are watching a band fall apart progressivly, and listening to the long goodbyes of Carl, Gary, and John saying farewell to Pete. "If I have to go, I will be thinking of your love" sobs Pete to Carl. The album is laced with love, but that love is laced with confusion, longing and fractured hope - conflicting feelings expressed in a series of taunts and appeals. "Inside I felt/So, so alone," sings Pete presumably of his drugs, while in "Don't be Shy" the pair sing lyrics like "But don't be coy with me I'm too clever to follow you down/To the dark and stormy weather, babe/Or you may wake up one day in the last chance saloon/To find your last chance has been and gone"
In "The Man Who Would Be King" possibly the best track on the album, Pete sounds like his going to collapse into tears, as he gasps boldly before every line and sobs. It contains the albums most truthful, raw and terrible lines, and has the best lyrics the Libertines have ever written."My heart beats slow fast/I don't feel right/With a sleight of hand I might die" Pete sings of the influence of drugs before launching into a chorus of "la's." Next up comes a verse sung by Barat, where he sings the terrible line to Doherty "I lived my dream today/I lived it yesterday/And I'll be living yours tomorrow" he says responding to Doherty's earlier words on the guys friendship "Well I heed the words you say.../But my heart has gone astray/I watched friendship slip away/But it wasn't s'posed to be that way"
Then comes Music When The Lights Go Out,heartbreaking ballad which was written by Barat for Pete, but Pete sings it. It's impossible for me not to tear up after I here this, so devestating is it. "Well, I'll confess all of my sins/After several large gins/But still I'll hide from you/And hide what's inside from you" says Pete.
Yet among all the darkness there are moments of fun. Songs like Narcissist, The Ha Ha Wall,Tomblands and Campaign of Hate are dripped in the Libertines trademark wit."Poor kids dressing like they're rich/Rich kids dressing like they're poor/White kids talking like they're black" they sing on Campaign of Hate.
What Katie Did, The Saga, Road to Ruin and What Became of the Likely Lads are the next songs up. What Katie Did is a song about a girl lost to drugs. And is an edearing sing-along. But it seems as if Barat is talking to Pete when he says "Since you said goodbye/Polka dots fill my eyes/And I don't Know Why" The Saga is Doherty speaking of his drug habit, and how it effects those around him: "I dig my bed you dig my bed/I dig my grave" Road to Ruin is Barats response to that. It's him begging Doherty to come back to him, "How can we/Make you understand?/All you can be/Is given in your hand/Trust in me/Take me by the hand"
The duo may join forces to sing "we're thick as thieves" in the album's closer, What Became of the Likely Lads, but Barat keeps demanding: "If that's important to you." Each time Doherty affirms, "Yes, it's important to me", frustration mounting when he isn't believed.
This is an extrodinary record. The Libertines may have a slim legacy, but the quality of their music cannot be denied. When the band first came out, they were the labled the british Strokes, but they have superseded their mentors, and emerged as a revolutionary band.The album's cover shows Barat and Doherty reunited on the latter's release from prison last year. It's an astonishing image, the pair radiating tenderness, pain, pride, diffidence, a desire to protect and be protected. Here are two people clinging to each other, sailors on a shipwreck, searching for shore. "If I have to go," Doherty sings in Last Post on the Bugle, "I will be thinking of your love. Oh somehow you'll know - I don't know how but you'll know - I'll be thinking of your love." There is a faith in those words, a sense of trust that seems to have faded since the album was recorded in spring. It's hard not to think of The Libertines as a valediction. It's even harder to think that this is the end.