Music: Carl Barât by Carl Barât * * * *
Solo hit takes no Libertines
The Libertines were one of those bands whose reputation and influence far outweighed their popularity. I use the past tense deliberately -- the summer's reunion shows were nostalgia fests and there's unlikely to be new material any time soon. Anyway, Carl Barât has his own fish to fry.
Such is the notoriety of Pete Doherty that it's easy to forget that it was the more introverted, erudite Barât who actually fronted the band.
And although I never 'got' The Libertines, there was always something about this unabashed Romantic that I liked. Barât's follow-up band, Dirty Pretty Things, didn't set the world alight, but there was something less forced, less contrived about them than his old group.
But this solo debut is the best thing he's done -- by some distance. The tuneless racket of The Libertines has been supplanted by some very decent songs, carefully composed and beautifully played.
This is an album that might just change your mind about Barât, especially when you hear the super-catchy but bittersweet So Long, My Lover. Its jaundiced heart is wrapped in lovely packaging and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes a busking staple from now on.
Just as good is The Fall, featuring Neil Hannon. It's every bit as arch and deadpan as you would expect from the Divine Comedy man, but he doesn't crowd the song and there's plenty of room for Barât to show off his magpie qualities.
And a magpie he most certainly is. There's the melodrama of Brett Anderson, the smart-alecky observances of Jarvis Cocker and the soulful croon of Richard Hawley. Sure, there are plenty of moments where Barât seems in thrall to his influences, but he executes his songs in such a way that you forgive him.
Doherty may like to think of himself as a poet, but it's Barât that you should turn to for cracking lines. How about this from the lullaby-like What Have I Done? "Looks like I tied you up in all the yarns I've spun/But I'll be here to catch you when the whole thing comes undone."
Burn it: So Long, My Lover; The Fall; Ode to a Girl