Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Carpe Diem


Up the Bracket
Rough Trade

It's always been a tricky thing, making rock & roll that stands up and falls down at the same time. And as more generations stumble upon a tradition that goes back to the early Beatles, the trick gets harder and harder to pull off, especially in a new way.

London's Libertines do it in a new way. At first you may be skeptical, because, like most shambolic post-punk bands, they sound scrawny. Egged on by producer Mick "Not the Foreigner One" Jones, Carl Barat's voice breaks and blurs and runs out of breath, guitar amps cry out for replacement cones, and tunes hide their heads in their hoodies. But if you have a taste for loose, the Libertines--grabbing hold perhaps with the Johnny Thunders-on-methadone solo of "Boys in the Band," or the "Please kill me" that turns into "Don't kill me" and back again in "Death on the Stairs"--will persuade you to have another go. And eventually every song will kick in from a slightly different angle, including faux folk and cracked ballad. Even the one where (talk about old traditions) "all the money" goes "straight up her nose" fits into the only cultural context that supports this kind of desperate glee: the international youth bohemia of temporary living arrangements and too much fun. Are they selfish assholes down deep? Libertines usually are. But they can make you real glad to be alive.

Rolling Stone, Apr. 3, 2003