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The Libertines: Up The Bracket

Album: Up The Bracket
Label: Rough Trade

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British rockers pop out promising debut albums with the frequency of toddlers throwing tantrums, but The Libertines' Up The Bracket resides among the few new U.K. retro-punk records to show real promise in their promise. The band has taken the right lessons from its forebears, retaining the original class of '77's wit and casual charm to go with its reckless energy. Up The Bracket was produced by The Clash's Mick Jones, but its tone is more in line with the pop-addled trash of The Damned than with the politicized, beat-crazed frenzy of Jones' legendary group. "Horrorshow" exemplifies The Libertines' approach, packing a hopped-up guitar riff, slurred vocals, a chorus that sounds like it was lifted from a late-night drinking game, and careening drums into two and a half minutes of giddy slop. Elsewhere, the guys swagger and posture like nightclub studs in the stuttering, sleazy "Boys In The Band," croon their way through the gradual tempo reductions of "Tell The King," and hammer out the slam-dance-ready self-definition anthem "I Get Along." As with the rest of the current back-to-the-raw "The" bands on both sides of the Atlantic, The Libertines' game of hash-and-rehash raises legitimate concerns about whether the future of rock really belongs in its past. As fun as Up The Bracket can be, it might well be better if the group acknowledged that it's living in the 21st century. But it's hard to dismiss the buoyant tune and boozy unpredictability of "Death On The Stairs," which stays loosely controlled long enough to get to a spitting, sweetly fuzzy guitar solo that thoroughly justifies the band's backwardness.