"Did You See The Stylish Kids In The Riot?" A Love Letter To The Libertines' Up The Bracket

"Did you see the styyyyylish..."
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What was the last band you really believed in? Can you remember? One whose ideals, music, attitude, lyrics, style, everything, had a profound influence on you, the wake of which is still noticeable today?

Maybe it’s a teenage thing; malleable hearts and minds searching for their own unique identity and, simultaneously, a unity and kinship with other individuals sharing their desire and attitudes. Or it could be the latching onto a look and ideals after the realisation that there are people out there who feel the same way they do. Love and true belief in a band is rare and normally in a short-lived burst where ideas, music and people converge and burn out like magnesium ribbon before evaporating into thin air leaving everyone with singed eyebrows, wondering exactly what happened.

The problem with ‘Scenes’, for wont of a better word, is that they’re only identifiable in hindsight; at the time no-one realises the lasting impression they’re leaving and they can’t hear the etching of history over the roar of the music.  Punk, 1976-78. Madchester, 1986-89. Merseybeat, 1961-63. Seattle, 1988-90. Britpop 1994-96. All these iconic corners of time and space produced one or two bands that, for whatever reason, stand tall above the rest.  But what, I ask you, have the ironically named noughties and the couple of years since given us?

Love and true belief in a band is rare and normally in a short-lived burst where ideas, music and people converge and burn out like magnesium ribbon

The truly great bands throughout rock n roll history - the ones that will be remembered as a point where future generations will look back, green, wishing they were there, then, at that time - are the ones of whom the fans feel a part, rather than a fan, of. An unfolding story within touching distance, The Libertines were the last great British rock and roll band of this ilk; the industry and the fans are worse off for and music is stagnant whilst we suffer the long overdue wait for another.

As the noughties arrived, The Strokes exploded with effortless cool reminding us that, post the demise of Britpop’s swell of optimism, in the gulf then being filled to the brim with the piss of Travis, the bile of Limp Bizkit and the bland corn-pocked detritus of previous greats like The Manics, The 'Phonics and Oasis, guitar bands could still be exciting and essential. Those with their ears close to the ground may have heard the early rumbles and the distant footsteps of the approaching Libertines, maybe even being lucky enough to catch a blinding-but-rough-around-the edges early show. Pete and Carl opened their home (literally) to their fans and wrote lyrics with a wit and intelligence that belied their twisted personas; not only about literature and the grimier side of existence but also about their personal lives and relationships; wearing their hearts permanently on their sleeves and removing the veil of distance between the producers and the consumers of their music, assuming there were still music lovers who want to see intelligence over swagger, altruism over rock deitism and - most importantly - screeching volume over flowers in the fucking window.

The complimentary personalities of the two frontmen quickly came to the fore, showing that despite their problems there was genuine respect and affection and they had followed a mutual dream to success through all the trials and past all the pitfalls this entailed, and as a fan you felt right there with them: an integral part of it.

Once Up the Bracket was released the NME took over and that’s where some may argue the end had already begun. Success meant money, money meant drugs and on this particular subject unfortunately Pete meant business – with their debut single featuring the lyric ‘what a fucking waster, you’ve pissed it all up the wall’ it all seemed grimly predictable, wholly inevitable and tragic. The cracks began to show and suddenly everyone wanted more of them but there was a short but sweet bubble in time that everything seemed to be going right. Then the break ups, heroin, prison, fights and gig cancellations were publicised hugely, creating unbelievable hype for the second album because honestly, deep down, you kind of knew it would be the last.

Having such a knowledge of the personalities in the band gave such insight into the personal lyrical content of the second album that large parts of it were genuinely affecting; ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, ‘What Became of the Likely Lads' and Pete’s heartfelt confessions in ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ say it all in no uncertain terms, making their eventual slump and spluttered demise register on a deeply personal level; the fans were, and still are, gutted.

The complimentary personalities of the two frontmen quickly came to the fore, showing that despite their problems there was genuine respect and affection

So despite a surprisingly prolific solo career Pete, some would say through naivety, became fat faced tabloid news, smoking and shooting his way in and out of prison and Kate Moss, whilst Carl replaced John Hassall from the Pete-less Libertines line-up that completed their touring commitments before disbanding. After a million will they/have they rumours they reformed for Reading and Leeds for a pair of gigs that were, as expected, ecstatically received.

Talk persists of a return to the studio and it’s difficult to imagine that it won’t eventually happen; but what odds of it ever being the same? The thing with the bands that inspire the fan feeling the Libs did is that even though it’s over and it’s sad that they couldn’t go on, you’re happy in the knowledge that it happened at all. It’s better to have loved and lost and all that, but the patient wait for the next musical shift continues and for the sake of anyone in their teens now it had best happen soon because these are the bands that inspire others to pick up guitars, drumsticks, saxomophones, whatever, and start bands of their own. In the meantime we’ll just have to continue kidding ourselves into believing Friendly Fires are not actually completely fucking awful. Harrumph.

This article originally appeared on Gobshout, which you can find here 

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