Monday, August 09, 2004

The Libertines

A select few in the Umlaut circle know about my Anglophile ways. I've spent more time in London than any other city outside of San Francisco. I blame Monty Python. Of course, this affection for Albion has profoundly influenced my record collection over the years.

There's the obvious Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motorhead, and NWOBHM (look it up..). My roots, bloody roots (to quote Sepultura). In later years that grew to include Humble Pie, The Faces, Zeppelin, Jam, Clash, etc. etc. blah blah blah. However, it all began with a midnight screening of the movie Quadrophenia when I was 15. The Who in 1979 was my 2nd concert ever and that set the tone for my Brit Rock leanings.

Readers of this space have been exposed to my recent madness for The Darkness. However, truth be known, my favorite of the contemporary English bands is actually The Libertines. Old Metal friends probably won't understand, but I'm all about their punkish, cheeky, and very English style. The fact that Mick Jones produced both of their albums speaks volumes and lends itself appropriately to the band's Old School Brit Rock vibe.

Recently The Libertines quietly made an "official" bootleg (Titled 'Piss Me Off') available as a free download. The recording is of a complete show from April, 2004 in London and features a preview of several new songs. Hmmm.. a band allowing the free downloading of a bootleg featuring new (and unreleased) songs?! Isn't that a bad thing?? Sounds like some kind of monster to me.

Featured in the set was a cover of The Only Ones song 'Another Girl, Another Planet' with The Only Ones singer Peter Perrett on vocals. Yes, the song was "made famous" by The Replacements, but some have argued over the years that The 'Mats assumed much of their sound from that English band.. If anyone cares... (Music geeks are such sad and opinionated souls.. Damn you Nick Hornby. But if anyone wants to debate Guadalcanal Diary vs. IRS-era R.E.M., bring it on...).

The Only Ones are an obscure band by anyone's standards, but the fact that The Libertines know and acknowledged them makes perfect sense. It's the type of connection that causes music geeks to "pitch a tent" (Note: Ironically, The Only Ones final tour in 1980 ended abruptly in San Francisco after Perrett ran someone over with a car... Geek out.).

Another thing I like about The Libertines is that they can't simply be called another bunch of pasty white English lads by lazy critics... Since they're not all pasty white blokes:

(Note: Gary, the drummer and non-pasty member, played drums for the reformed New York Dolls at their reunion shows in the UK earlier this year..)

In closing, what follows is a rant The Libertines inspired last August following their S.F. debut:

The Libertines
330 Rich St. - Aug. 1, 2003 + Slim's - Aug. 3, 2003, S.F.

Late Sunday afternoon I watched a rebroadcast of the Manchester United vs. Juventus exhibition match in New York from Thursday.. Since Man Utd. dominated I took it as a sign to go see The Libertines at Slim's after all.

I also figured I should see them at a "proper" gig after seeing them at 330 Ritch St. on Friday night.. Rich St. was like seeing them in a pub (a small, hot, and sweaty room with a tiny, knee-high stage and a dodgy sound system surrounded by drunk kids). It wasn't seeing them under the best conditions (although I liked them).

I will venture to say that the show last night at Slim's was my favorite gig so far this year.. It was like seeing a gig in Camden Town... complete with old school BritPop (The Jam) and reggae (Junior Murvin's 'Police & Thieves') playing over the PA between bands.. Slim's was crowded (I'd guess 300-350 in a space that holds around 500) and the band was FOOKIN' GLEAT!! The crowd was into it and there was much pogoing (yayy)..

I love the band because of their cheekiness and for being so English (not unlike Kinks / Jam / early Oasis)... and they have that punky edge onstage (which is probably why Mick Jones produced their album). It's like watching a car careening down a mountain road without brakes, but they manage to keep it together and make all the turns.

Plus, the band has that hungry energy of being on their first tour in support of their first album. They may be cheeky, but they're not jaded. How could I not smile when a kid down front yelled out how much he loved the band and the guitarist reached over and gave the kid a beer from his onstage stash. Rock 'N Roll the way it should be.

The Libertines are my favorite of the recent English bands because they continue the old school BritPop edgy guitar tradition of the Kinks and The Jam combined with really great lyrics (so Ray Davies / Kinks-like at times):

"If you've lost your faith in love and music the end won't be long.
Because if it's gone for you then I too may lose it and that would be wrong.
You know I've tried so hard to keep myself from falling back into my bad old ways.
And it chars my heart to always hear you calling, calling for the good old days.
Because there were no good old days.
These are the good old days."

- from 'The Good Old Days'

God Save The Queen.

Check out Umlaut friends Reynolds & Hearn for top notch literature on British music, film, and television (Cheers Marcus!):