A quick flick through the annals of recent pop history will leave you with several Squires, Butlers and, erm, Slash, all of whom left acts who’d created their own special moment in music history and faded into shadows of their former selves. The fickle public will undoubtedly hold any such artist over a barrel when the time comes to go it alone.
This, then, is the challenge facing Carl Barat. Dirty Pretty Things: decent band, but inevitably stuck in the shadow of The Libertines. While they can pen a tune to turn a charity gig for the Make Roads Safe campaign at London’s Coronet into a pulsating sweatbox every bit as well as this week’s next big thing, they need cover versions and the help of an old (but definitely not finished) mod to really get things going.
The mod in question is Paul Weller. The king of the cameo appearance looks too bronzed and nourished for his own good. Taking guitar duties on a raucous Gin and Milk, Barat’s diatribe against essentially everyone except himself, his mere presence seems to ignite what threatens to become a routine outing. Dirty Pretty Things have songs which should stand up to the legacy of their members: You Fucking Love It is an infectious opening track, brimming over with pumped up testosterone and stripped down grot ‘n’ roll charm. Singles Deadwood and Bang Bang You’re Dead boil with vitriol, clashing guitar and the same manic, shambolic delivery that made Carl a fans’ favourite when he wrote songs with wossisname.
But the fact remains, apart from when the scrotty punk guitars and catchy chorus drag them along, Dirty Pretty Things struggle to come up with anything inspiring or original. If You Love A Woman ambles along, a ska-tinged singalong before resoundingly giving up, and two new tracks that get their first outing this evening struggle to sound more than a mash-up of all the others played at once. Luckily, Barat and company have resources in depth to draw on when times are tough.
Coming back out for the obligatory encore, and launching straight into the rabble rousing Libertines tune Who’s Got The Crack, Dirty Pretty Things hit the ramshackle but able peak that they always look like just missing the summit of. Weller returns for a cover of In The City and even throws in a few backing vocals for good measure. The band are noticeably chuffed, the crowd are chanting Weller’s name and, for anyone a bit more pie-eyed, it could almost be something special. But the near hysteria reserved for closing track I Get Along (another Libertines moment) serves to underline that, while Dirty Pretty Things are pulling it off, the three best moments of the night are sown up with other artists.
Whether Dirty Pretty Things can rise from the under the covers of their members’ former glories is a definite maybe.