There was a time when posh London boys masquerading as poor, romantic free spirits were deemed the future of not only music but of pop culture. That ship has sailed but no one has told Carl Barat. If you can get past the sleeve image of Barat taking his own picture in a mirror (analyse this if you will), with his debut solo effort he conjures up all the things we’ve come to expect from the Libertines stable; the attitude, lyrics, pretentiousness but all minus the odd glimmer of wit, social commentary and nods to poetry.
Like his on-off cohort Doherty, Barat seems unable to make up his mind whether he wants to step away from his former band(s) or relish in its glory. We’re graced with only brief flickers of the ear for melody the musician is most often praised for, such as on ‘Je Regrette, Je Regrette’, and the boyish lad-about-town charm just doesn’t cut it anymore. Predictable rhymes ‘we need more time/ to live or die’ or childish lyrical gems ‘I was blind/I couldn’t see/the mirror cracked/in front of me’ haunt the record and it all comes across as pretty dated. With a voice that lacks any emotion, particularly on the strings galore number ‘The Fall’, all 10 tracks sound suspiciously disingenuous.
Not the personal departure Barat has promised, it’s still shackled by the ghost of former incarnations and is about as heartfelt as his posturing. Nice first try Carl but please make this the last.