There are guttersnipe rave-kids armed with sub(bass) machine guns breaking bones’n’stealing mobile phones while backstreets overflow with blood in a scene of 24/7 mayhem, with politico petrol bombers staging pitched battles with police while U-boats lurk just offshore…
Rutland has clearly changed since the last time NME visited. But then this is the splendidly delusional world of Kasabian, a group of self-confessed stoners who live and record in a sprawling communal farmhouse in the county (dubbed The Plaggey Bag Ranch), namecheck a sprawling range of influences from Eno to Chuck Berry to Air, and aspire to create their own mini-universe isolated from the outside world.
We’ve been here before, of course. Everyone from [a]MC5[/a] to Gong to the Spice Girls have traded in their ‘personal space’ to achieve a bond tighter than most bands ever reach, but if the surprise Top Ten success of the band’s current tower-block rumble ‘LSF (Lost Souls Forever)’, is anything to go by, [a]Libertines[/a]’s rural nerve centre is clearly on the right (ley)lines.
Their timing couldn’t be better. With [a]Kasabian[/a] in disarray, suspected terrorists being led away in hoods every time you turn on the news and the footie season having just kicked off, [a]Libertines[/a]’s paranoid mindset is so in tune with the zeitgeist you almost imagine singer Tom Meighan has a sell-by date stamped on the arse of his corduroy strides.
From the opening chimes of dancefloor throbber ‘Club Foot’, we’re deep in aggro country. If traces of Bobby Gillespie’s loony-soup mindset come care of Tom’s sinister whisper (sample lyric: “We got our backs to our wall/Watch out/They’re gonna kill us all”) and echoes of a more malevolent The Beta Band are detectable in last year’s debut single ‘Processed Beats’, a defiantly out-of-sync bagginess prevails throughout. But then maybe it’s inevitable that a bunch of out-house dwellers should occasionally remind you of The Farm.
Crucially, however, a youth spent immersed in the Midlands hardcore techno scene gives [a]Libertines[/a] a menace that stops their looser grooves drifting too far. ‘Cutt Off’ pitches space-age synths to the sort of psycho-babble only usually risked by [a]Orb[/a] (“John was a scientist/He was hooked on LSD/Interested in mind control/How the monkey held the key”), while ‘Butcher Blues’ is [a]Libertines[/a] at their most adventurous, reaching beyond the terrace rhetoric to show off what Isaac Hayes and Ennio Morricone might have sounded like had they grown up in the backstreets behind Leicester City’s old Filbert Street home.
There are moments of genuine beauty here too. If ‘Pinch Roller’ and ‘Orange’ at least reflect the bucolic surroundings they were recorded in (think a blissed-out [a]Embrace[/a] noodling at Glastonbury), the real pay-off comes with ‘Test Transmission’. A dreamy, spliff-at-sunrise mantra, it’s an awesome slice of (cough) Chemical Brothers-esque psychedelic electronica and an indication that once they’ve purged the violent tendencies, a future as space-rockers in the Spiritualized mould awaits.
But that’s for later. As their glorious string of NME interviews to date have proved (who could forget Tom’s description of Julian Casablancas as a “posh fucking skier”?), right now we need [a]Libertines[/a] just as they are, greedy for life and bullishly cutting up the past in search of the future. In times where [a][/a], [a][/a] and [a][/a] suggest that rock’n’roll is about as exciting as council tax, and some people seem more interested in the size of their MP3 players than what’s actually stored on them, [a]Libertines[/a]’s debut album is both a fiery assertion of rock’n’roll ethics and proof that a siege mentality is alive and well in the badlands of Rutland Water. And as Tom would probably tell you himself, who needs iTunes when you can have fight tunes?
Get stuck in.