Asif Kapadia’s recent documentary Amy pinned blame for Amy Winehouse’s 2011 death not on drugs or alcohol but on modern society and media’s merciless approach to the most vulnerable. Rather than give Amy Winehouse space and time as she struggled with addiction and personal demons, newspapers and public figures picked apart her every action and turned them into newspaper headlines. Her fuck ups made her more famous, and the more famous she got, she more she fucked up.
Such is the tale of The Libertines. Thankfully, their story so far has progressed positively, in a way that Winehouse’s couldn’t. But watching the Libs’ frequent horror-shows over the years unfurl as a fan meant that you were never certain what fate awaited Pete, Carl and co.
It’s this crass and frankly quite disturbing facet of modern life – of social media’s faceless wolves waiting to pounce on the mentally weak and downtrodden – that The Libertines explore in the quite brilliant video for new single ‘Heart Of The Matter’.
Unflinchingly honest about their own previous misdemeanours, it finds Pete and Carl in a viewing box repeatedly harming limp, dummy versions of themselves with booze, drugs and self-flagellation as a conveyor belt of viewers insert coins into the machine, baying and paying for more. Pete moves from crack pipe to needle; Carl devours endless whiskey and cocaine before smashing himself round the eye in a bloody mess – a nod to when he nearly blinded himself in 2003 in a fit of self-hatred. John and Gary watch on, stony and ashen faced at the mess they see unfolding before them as the public gradually lose interest in the scene that they’ve helped create.
It’s not a video that skirts around who’s to blame. Pete and Carl, recreating their own previous real-life messes, are quite literally doing these things to themselves. But it’s one that also makes you question the destructive relationship of the band and their detractors. Will they fuck up? Will Pete turn up? Is he back on the smack? Fucking hell, he’s got a bit fat ain’t he?! This is The Libertines fighting back and showing that – finally – they’re in control of their own lives.