This is one album that needs no introduction. Anyone who was a fan of The Libertines – and there were a few – and has had to endure the incessant media coverage of the Pete Doherty soap opera over the last two years, will have been waiting with bated breath for Carl Barat’s next move.
The good news is that Waterloo To Anywhere, in spite of it being a rather long time coming, doesn’t disappoint – Barat and his cohorts, old and new, have mustered a hugely solid collection of urgent, frenzied and often quite exciting, catchy as hell rock ‘n’ roll songs that equate to one of the best LPs of 2006 thus far.
Understandably from a man who feels he has something to prove, there’s a massive sense of purpose and desire to achieve here, which is evident from the very beginning. Deadwood starts the album as it means to go on – tight, highly energetic, and harbouring not one ounce of musical fat, it’s a solid declaration of ‘out with the old and in with the new,’ not least when Barat declares “Something’s gonna change.”
Who or what he may be referring to will almost certainly be the hot topic of debate, something that will surely be accentuated by the numerous possible references to his former band mate scattered around the 12 tracks – “I knew all along, that I was right at the start” (Bang Bang You’re Dead), “Don’t come back till the war is won” (The Gentry Cove) and “The enemy, as I know it, is right inside my head” (The Enemy), amongst others.
But whatever the songs are about (not Pete, says Carl), there’s no escaping that they’re all really quite good, not a single one flailing in terms of quality.
It’s essentially a great jukebox, from start to finish – Doctors And Dealers benefits from a marvellously memorable guitar lick that should bury itself in the consciousness of even the most sceptical listener, Bang Bang You’re Dead jostles very competitively with the most naggingly catchy songs this year, The Gentry Cove is a vicious, thumping send off to an unwelcome foe, and Gin And Milk crashes around with reckless abandon like an early Libertines number. Later on, they slow the pace down a notch on closer B.U.R.M.A, a yearning tale of lost love that displays another dimension to Carl’s otherwise agitated song writing.
What’s noticeable is the shift away from Mick Jones’ rough and ragged production of The Libs and Babyshambles – in place are slick, swish sounds courtesy of renowned rock man Dave Sardy.
This is not in any way to their detriment, as it suits their clean cut, no nonsense image and in all cases has really given the songs a general ‘oomph’ factor, particularly visible on the kick-up-the-arse, Buzzcocks-like You Fucking Love It, a slice of speed punk which sees bassist Didz Hammond take over vocal duties for the start of the song, to wondrous effect – a vicious and impressive screech, it would have been nice to hear more of him elsewhere.
But we may well do so – this is a superb, critic dispelling debut album, which should pave the way for a very bright future. It’s not The Libertines, only a return of Doherty will see that, but it’s a damn fine and dare I say it more focused alternative, and one that is really worth investing some faith in.