The Libertines: Up The Bracket (2002)

Back in the early '00s, the London-based Libertines were part of that whole post-punk guitar rock thing, with various bands out of New York and the UK like the Strokes, the Killers, Interpol, White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand, and others getting a load of media hype and alt.rock radio airplay. The bands didn't necessarily have a lot in common -- sure, you'd hear strains of the Velvet Underground and Joy Division and Television and whatever, but they seemed to get lumped together simply by favoring a generally stripped-down guitar rock sound, which isn't exactly a genre unto itself.

For some reason, while I listened to a few of those bands at the time, I didn't pick up on the Libertines right away. Not sure why that is, maybe they just got a little less traction here in the States. But eventually I checked out their 2002 debut, maybe a few years later, and was kicking myself for missing it on the first go-round (by then, they had already imploded, lasting barely long enough for a follow-up LP and a few singles). Their debut is just fantastic, a messy, drunken brawl that blends the Clash (Mick Jones produced it), the Jam, the Sex Pistols, Madness, maybe a little Wire -- very, very British, but a much more punk-tinged sound that the Britpop of the 90s.

It's loaded with peppy rave-ups, from the staccato "Vertigo" and "Death on the Stairs" to the insanely infectious title track to the raggedy punk-pop "I Get Along"; tunes like "Time For Heroes" and "The Boy Looked At Johnny" somehow squeeze a Jam-like classic pop mentality into the frenzied energy. It's one of those albums that feels like it can go off the rails any moment, wasted and explosive and dangerous.

While it definitely feels of the moment, I think it still holds up well today. Indeed, the only weakness is that they held back some of their best tunes, like the wicked-fun "Skag & Bone Man" and "The Delaney," for singles and b-sides, when their inclusion here would've made the album a veritable motherf*****; the 5-song I Get Along EP collecting a few of them is probably the definitive document of the band. (The fantastic single "What A Waster" at least made it onto the CD as a bonus track.)

Alas, as noted, the band wasn't long for this world, frontman Peter Doherty embracing every rock star cliche he could get his hands on; the self-titled 2004 follow-up was a bit of a letdown, still plenty of decent songs but lacking the energy. Doherty managed to (sort of) get his act together and record a few albums with the underrated Babyshambles, not a huge departure sonically though a bit toned-down. The Libertines regrouped for 2015's Anthems for Doomed Youth, a surprisingly entertaining outing that, while lacking the over-the-top magic of the debut, shows the band still able to craft compelling punk-tinged slices of Britannia.

Here's the video for "Up The Bracket":
...and "Time For Heroes":
Here's a live "What A Waster":
And yeah, just a b-side, but here's "The Delaney" live: