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by Dan Grunebaum

Metropolis 2004 Music Survey

The Libertines

As this week’s visitors prove, some bands do live up to their names

We inhabit an age of “harm reduction” in rock. So it comes as a perverse comfort when even as hardcore headbangers like Metallica have released a documentary about their group therapy, and pretty much everybody is in a 12-step plan or “in recovery,” that some rock ‘n’ rollers are still living according to hallowed rock dictums like “hope I die before I get old” and “better to burn out, than to fade away.”

The result, however, is that for this week’s Tokyo visit, young British foursome The Libertines are without charismatic singer Pete Doherty. Following repeated stints in rehab and a two-month prison sentence for breaking into co-frontman Carl Barat’s apartment and robbing items including a laptop computer and acoustic guitar, Doherty is off the current tour.

Not that anyone would care if The Libertines’ music wasn’t so powerful. Debuting in 2003 with Up the Bracket (“Bracket” stands for cocaine) produced by the Clash’s Mick Jones, The Libertines were quickly tagged “the UK Strokes.” The album had a lean, garage sound in common with their US counterparts, but at the same time defied easy comparison.

The Libertines then pulled off what in rock can be very difficult: releasing a follow-up that doesn’t disappoint. This August’s The Libertines opens with “Can’t Stand Me Now,” a love song with the catch that it’s about Barat and Doherty’s relationship. “You twist and tore our love apart,” sings Barat, with Doherty responding, “No, you’ve got it the wrong way around/You shut me up and blamed it on the brown.”

With Doherty on waivers until he can clean up his act, Barat has been handling frontman duties solo, adding Anthony Rossomando on guitar to complement John Hassall (bass) and Gary Powell (drums). In the meantime, Doherty has been touring the UK with his other act the Babyshambles. Does this herald a permanent split in The Libertines? Barat has been telling the press that Doherty is welcome back if he’s clean, while Doherty has accused Barat of jealousy over Doherty’s moonlighting with the Babyshambles.

While the tabloids have a field day, the record companies have been reveling in it as each new scandal drives sales higher. “What a Waster” was The Libertines’ first Top 40 single, entering the UK charts in 2002. Up the Bracket appeared in early 2003, spawning a number of hits including “Don’t Look Back Into the Sun.” More recently, Doherty and Barat appeared on the surprise hit “For Lovers” by friend Wolfman, while “Can’t Stand Me Now” entered the UK charts at No. 2.

Japanese audiences, it turns out, have seen the Doherty-less Libertines before: the last time they were in Japan, in 2003, Doherty was busy breaking into his bandmate Barat’s apartment.

Zepp Tokyo, November 29. See concert listings for details.

credit: Creativeman

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Metropolis 2004 Music Survey

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