Rough Trade Records - 2004 - 42 minutes

Finding ways to follow the adrenaline rush of 'Up The Bracket' with an album of similar potency and drive was never going to be easy. Success can often strangle the 'us against the world' attitude that propels young bands forward. Though the fact that frontman Pete Doherty has yet to make his peace with the world (not to mention his band) means The Libertines need not relinquish the outsider tag just yet.

As a band, The Libertines are acutely aware of the whole circus surrounding them, and many of the songs here contain whispers of the internal strife that the tabloid headlines have been screaming about. Rather than let their troubles overwhelm the music, they seem to have used them as a muse of sorts, songs such as 'Can't Stand Me Now' reference the untidy business of drug aided band breakdown with perceptive humour and melody. Leaving aside the merits of the music, it is fascinating to hear a band document the mess even as they make it.

Bookended with quality songs, the aforementioned 'Can't Stand Me Now' and 'What Became Of The Likely Lads' open and close the album with purpose. However in between there are all too frequent lapses in quality control. The sloppy shambles that is 'Don't Be Shy' probably didn't even sound good at the time, while a handful of others just pass noisily by without making an impact.

There are moments and songs that hint at the levels of performance they should be achieving with ease, and at the potential they seem no closer to fulfilling. This is a slurred statement from a band who evidently have something worth saying. They just aren't saying it very clearly here.

Ray Donoghue

Tracklisting: Can't Stand Me Now - Last Post On The Bugle - Don't Be Shy - The Man Who Would Be King - Music When The Lights Go Out - Narcissist - The Ha Ha Wall - Arbeit Macht Frei - Campaign Of Hate - What Katie Did - Tomblands - The Saga - Road To Ruin - What Became Of The Likely Lads