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Album Review
Carl Barat

Carl Barat
by Carl Barat

Rough Trade

Review Date
17th November 2010
Reviewed by
Courtney Sanders

Oh, What Became of those Likely Lads. The passionate creative companionship Carl Barat shared with Pete Doherty in The Libertines was something to behold. Their attempt to break down the barriers between fan and band, their fights, their substance abuse, and their girlfriends cemented a myth of The Libertines they created and purported: English kinsman sailing The Albion to their nostalgic utilitarian paradise, Arcadia. Their music was inseparable from both this hazy dream and the reality of their relationship. With arms linked and eyes locked in creative union, only matching hand-drawn ‘Libertines’ tattoos could personify the um, depth – and perhaps integrity - of their bond. And then, in a heady haze of crack pipes, jail time, Sadie Frost and Kate Moss, they each went their own way. To the detriment of Carl Barat.

And so it comes to pass that Doherty, with his undeniably romantic lyrical countenance (tracks like “Music When the Lights Go Out” are absolutely heart wrenching) held the intellectuality and heady socio-political-historical nostalgia of The Libertines together. Carl Barat bought into it sure, but without Doherty’s honesty, Barat’s tracks fail to resonate. Barat, in other words, doesn’t have the X Factor. While Doherty possesses natural-born song writing ability (as well as an affinity for being and absolute prat, let’s not forget), he also lives the aforementioned Arcadian Dream and shares those experiences with his audience in an honest, plausible way. Carl shares those experiences with his audience in the third person – detracted, a little bit awkward, and, like the sensible member of the duo during their time together – never going quite far enough to be endearing. First there was Babyshambles v. Dirty Pretty Things. Now there’s Pete v. Carl, and while Barat has played the media game – forever in NME’s Cool List, interview appearances abound – it is for this exact reason he is less appealing. Carl Barat is a constructed package. Pete Doherty just is, and while his behaviour is increasing appalling and abhorrent, at least it provides honest songwriting material.

And Barat’s latest effort, a self-titled solo album is the final nail in his coffin of credibility. If the album cover wasn’t enough – a foretelling image of Barat taking a photograph of a photographer taking a photo of him, while wearing a guns-exposing wife-beater and slicked back Fabio hair (OMG there is SO MUCH wrong with this cover I can’t even get started) – the album presents ten tracks that are almost exactly the same, even if the BPM does differ slightly between balladry and ballsy rock ‘n roll swagger (eugh). The subject matter flits through lost dreams and girls (‘Shes Something’, ‘So Long My Lover’, and the imaginatively titled ‘Ode to a Girl’) while the music presents that melding of off-kilter 60’s rock and roll, aggressive post punk and an almost Edwardian obsession with piano tinkering that was given credibility through the intrinsic creative relationship of Pete and Carl, or, so it would seem, just Pete.

What I was sure of when The Libertines broke up (although there are rumours of reformation, yes?) was that neither Pete nor Carl would be as good apart as they were together. What I was unaware of was that the split would cement Pete as the creative cornerstone of this seminal English outfit.

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