Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell: The Libertines ‘turned into a self-referential tabloid pantomime’

Singer discusses the rise and fall of 2000s indie in new interview

Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell has described how The Libertines descended “into this self-referential tabloid pantomime” following the release of their second album.

Borrell, who recently released ‘The Atlantic Culture’ with new band Zazou, was originally a member of the band alongside Pete Doherty and Carl Barat before leaving and forming Razorlight. Borrell is referenced in Libertines’ songs like ‘Boy Looked at Johnny’.

Borrell recently spoke to Noisey for a new interview in which he discussed the rise and fall of 2000s indie music.

On the topic of The Libertines, Borrell said: “I think with that second album [2004’s self-titled LP], their label were just desperate to capitalise on the initial success, and get anything at all out of them. So, they hashed together a lot of the songs that didn’t make the first record, and dredged up some even older stuff. I remember listening to demos of ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ from, like, 1999 – and honestly, they were better than what ended up on the album.”


He continued: “They were totally unbeatable in those early shows – or, especially the first twenty minutes of those early shows, before the coke wore off. The Libertines were a massive coke band, and very, very actively encouraged in that by their A&R. Now, one usually thinks of coke bands as totally overblown pomp, right? So, a band like The Libertines, back in the day, would have been a speed band… The history of recent British music could have been very different if Pete and Carl had gotten into amphetamines instead of gak.”

Borrell went on to say that by the time of their break-up, The Libertines had “been turned into this self-referential tabloid pantomime, where every song was about themselves. It was almost a piece of performance art – Marina Abramovic meets Phil and Grant Mitchell off Eastenders. I guess that progression is important when talking about the descent into landfill indie.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Borrell says that his own band’s second album [2006’s self-titled effort] “definitely opened the way for a flood of mediocrity in UK music”.

Read NME‘s review of Johnny Borrell and Zazou’s ‘The Atlantic Culture’ album.