Record Review - 2 August 14 2003

The Libertines do nothing to break American misconceptions that Brits are rarely found outside of pubs. Remember the time your college buddy approached you with a copy of Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn saying, "This album is drugs"? Well, the Libertines' debut is alcoholism.

Recorded in one take and sparsely produced by the Clash's Mick Jones, Up the Bracket is the result of a beer and whiskey binge and recording equipment. Luckily for the Libertines, their instincts are spot on. Luckier still, their misfirings — missed notes, imperfect harmonies and dropped progressions — are wholly compelling.

Lo-fi with filtered vocals, the loosely punk quartet are being welcomed into the Strokes' new-garage fold. True, Pete Doherty's voice could be mistaken for Julian Casablancas' Anglican cousin (with a bit of a Strummer scoff), and the chord progressions occasionally mirror the New York quintet's in their poppy simplicity. But ultimately, the studied coolness of the Strokes is lost in the pub brawl machismo of this red-coated foursome.

Doherty shares vocal duties with co-songwriter Carl Barat, and the twosome fight for supremacy on tracks such as the extra-boozy pub song, "The Boy Looked at Johnny." The guitar work reeks of old-school Chuck Berry tones and patterns, and the lush lads know their way around a hook (see title track). They can even turn a poignant phrase, "When she wakes up in the morning/She writes down all her dreams/Reads like the Book of Revelations/Or the Beano or the unabridged Ulysses."

Call them Britain's answer to the Strokes if you want, but remember that it was the Brits who pointed out the Strokes in the first place.

The Libertines play the Cotton Club Mon., Aug. 18. $10.