Libertines The Libertines

With Pete Doherty in and out of rehab (for heroin and crack), court and prison, it’s a wonder the Libertines made it into the studio at all, let alone with him sober enough to write and record. Unfortunately, the band has become tabloid celebrities in the UK, not for their music, but for their problems. Their Mick Jones-produced debut album, Up The Bracket, was an exceptional batch of passionate pop music, inspired by living in the gutters of London. The uniquely British themes and dialect of the songs were endearing to listeners, separating them from any real peers and eventually inspiring a handful of copycat acts in England. Such a legacy should pave the way for a landmark sophomore effort, but instead, the Libs have only matched the quality of their debut with The Libertines. While Up The Bracket suffered from hasty decisions, this self-titled effort, again produced by Jones, is plagued with a hit and miss syndrome. Of course, the hits outweigh the misses by four to one, but you have to wonder why they can’t keep it consistent. "Can’t Stand Me Now” is a gloriously harmonious illustration of the scrappy friendship between singers Doherty and Carl Barât. The band even hit their stride as songwriters on the infectious "Last Post On The Bugle,” the pub sing-along, "What Katie Did,” and possibly their best track to date, the all-too-revealing "The Man Who Would Be King.” If they could learn to discard waste like "Don’t Be Shy” and "Music When The Lights Go Out” and clean up Doherty’s act, they could be everything they’re aspiring to be: Britain’s most important band since the Smiths. (Rough Trade)