Four Libertines/Doherty tracks and a new wave legend in this grimy snapshot of the grot’n’roll uprising
Standing next to Libertines manager Alan McGee at about 2.30am on a Friday in March in London’s Rhythm Factory, I witnessed something truly mindboggling. New wave legend/junkie waster Peter Perrett – never has so much talent been spunked for the sake of a blackened spoon – clambered onstage to join The Libertines to play ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’. It was eye-popping, astonishing, a once-in-a-lifetime experience of helium vocals from rock’s very own Gollum over The Libertines’ biggest hit to date. It was also, incidentally, fucking rubbish. “Aye,” said McGee. “But it’s rock’n’roll.”
And, of course, he was right. Like the Roxy in ’77, the Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel has become the second home for anyone in London after a quick fix of grot’n’roll and spectacular one-off performances. And now, like the Roxy, here’s the live album that serves as a smudgy snapshot of London’s Burning. Nowadays, of course, in the RF you’re just as likely to run into rock tourists desperate for a zeitgeistian rush to pep them up as the smart urchins of yore, but there are still thrills aplenty.
Sure, there are problems. This is unfettered, raw rock’n’roll, after all – proper grown-ups who engage in discussions about 5.1 Surround Sound will pray on bended knee for their earholes to heal over rather than hear it again. But then rock’n’roll was never supposed to be sanitised to within an atom of its life. And anyway, the ferocious energy of the blunt punkisms (The Paddingtons’ ‘Tommy’s Disease’, The Rocks’ ‘Celeste’, Thee Unstrung’s ‘You’) prevents the album from being mired in an accumulation of bum notes and off-key vocals.
The Libertines/Babyshambles/Doherty tracks are the reason why most people will pick this up. Opener ‘Up The Bracket’ has the impact of a knee to the groin – it’s also the sharpest thing here. The hidden track with Perrett, ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’, had McGee punching the air with joy. Perrett seems more alive than he’s been in 20 years. Even without sweat dripping from the walls and lager spilt on your best jeans, it still sounds like an epoch making performance. The feverish delivery of Babyshambles’ ‘Kill A Man For His Giro’ (sic) sadly doesn’t live up to the forthcoming single. However, the winsome strum of ‘Back From The Dead’ beautifully confirms Doherty as a heart-stopping 21st-century minstrel of mayhem.
Perhaps the key track, though, is Selfish Cunt’s ‘Authority Confrontation’. It’s all crunching drum machines and shouting, a sonic V flicked at anyone who cares. And of course therein lies the problem. With everyone here trying to reverse the waves of Keanesian pleasantry engulfing music, Selfish singer Martin Tomlinson proves himself to be perhaps the most able, dispensing with tunes altogether in favour of bile and shock tactics to keep things exciting. Whether he succeeds or not is down to you.
There’s no sign of The Others or Special Needs, and the mighty Art Brut are ill-served with a muffled ‘Moving To LA’, but these are slight concerns for an artefact that’s so now it’ll probably be out of date by the time you reach the end of this review.
Play this record loud, take inspiration, dream dreams of the city and get a band together. Time’s running out.