W hat became of the dreams we had? Three and a half years on from the utopian idyll mapped out on ‘Up The Bracket’ and the rock landscape is unrecognisable. Sonic juggernauts Franz and the Kaisers thunder by en route to the Stadium Superleague; corporate pop vehicles like The Feeling trundle soulessly chartward, fuelled by MySpace service stations, and the DIY blueprint of the Albion Rooms lies in tatters, Arcadia’s central architect hellbent on his personal road to ruin.
Glamour, wit and the gang aesthetic are all back in vogue and yet Carl Barât – who more than anyone epitomised these qualities – has been forced into the role of helpless bystander while – to paraphrase The Clash’s ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ – rebellion has been turned into money.
It’s enough to make anyone want to take flight; from Waterloo to anywhere.But Carl Barât is made of sterner stuff. Having navigated The Libs around the world with a skeleton crew and then been forced to watch his former bandmate subjected to daily tabloid flogging, he has retaliated the only way he knows how: by assembling an outfit so steeped in rock’n’roll iconography, use of the phrase ‘last gang in town’ is almost mandatory.
Not that DPT’s debut arrives unburdened by the traumas of the last few years. As Carl is all too aware, Waterloo has long been a metaphor for final reckonings, and old scores get settled here with a Mafiosi’s zeal. Snarling references to “cracked-up egos” in ‘Doctors & Dealers’ and “sycophants and vampires” in ‘Blood Thirsty Bastards’ suggest he won’t be accepting any more invites round to Wolfman’s lair any time soon, while swaggering first single ‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’ finally pulls the trigger on his relationship with Pete. If ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ catalogued the breakdown of their relationship, here the inter-band spite is escalated to levels not seen since John Lennon’s scathing assault on Paul McCartney in ‘How Do You Sleep?’. “I knew all along/That I was right at the start/About the seeds of the weeds/That grew in your heart”, he rasps, before barking “Bang bang you’re dead/Always so easily led/Put all the rumours to bed”. Over to you, Bilo.
Uncertainty and regret hang heavy over proceedings. ‘Gin & Milk’ sees Carl lost in a long dark night of the soul, declaring: “Thought I knew what the blag was/Now I’m not sure/What do I know anymore?” before a growled “No-one gives a fuck about the values I would die for” while ‘The Enemy’ is darker still, a paranoid tale of internal demons set – bizarrely – to the tune of Razorlight’s ‘To The Sea’.
If the Gin Palace swagger of The Libertines’ debut remains in place – musically, ‘Waterloo…’’s closest cousin – poetic seduction has given way to a bullish resolve. Carl has already gone on record as saying he wants DPT to be “more gritty and less romanticised” than his former band, and ‘Waterloo…’ rocks viciously from start to finish. ‘You Fucking Love It’ is a brutal Buzzcocks-with-toothache thrash which will have stray Kooks fans screaming for the exits, while ‘If You Love A Woman’ is bleaker still, the sound of Kings Of Leon strapped into the dentist’s chair. One for the Coopers fans, then. Anyone still harbouring ideas this is the work of “the sensible Libertine”, meanwhile, should be directed to corpse-referencing skank ‘The Gentry Cove’; two, it seems, can play at being down in Albion. The only let up from the electric onslaught comes with final lullaby ‘BURMA’, where Carl adopts an Elvis-like croon for a chorus of “be upstairs ready my angel” (a saying used by troops during the Second World War) before a surreal, joyous ragtime chant of “Who’s got the clap/crack?”.
The message is loud and clear: despite having seen his old band ripped apart and his dreams of Arcadia hijacked, Carl still isn’t prepared to compromise or sweep the past under the carpet. Musical confirmation he’s back to his best comes with ‘Wondering’. Buffed to a FM radio sheen by LA über-producer Dave Sardy (Oasis, Jet), it is a streamlined anthem to hedonism which will have both die-hard Libs fans and American radio programmers scrambling for the repeat button. “The English sun is shining/The rude boys are on the run!” hollers Carl at its climax, both valediction and declaration of intent in one.
Smart; savvy; insanely resilient: ‘Waterloo To Anywhere’ is just the ticket.