Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Libertines

The Libertines : There are No Innocent Bystanders
The Troxy ; 27/04/11

The nature of The Libertines has always been a no holds barred ongoing rollercoaster of emotions, stories and half truths mixed with legends and their own brand of Albion history and Roger Sargent (author of Bound Together) is really the only person capable of getting a finished product that encapsulates all of the highs and lows (and the twos and the fro’s) without turning the whole thing into an ego tripped and perfectly lit professional set of one on ones with the group.

The film starts with a basic history lesson in Libertine folk law, how they met, early gigs, influences etc. Most if not all fans of the group will know all this stuff back to front by now although it helps involve you from the get go and helps you fall in love with the characters all over again so when the scenes turn to the breakup and the initial rehearsals in preparation for the London Forum and eventual Reading Festival comeback shows you’re willing them on not to blow it and end up cheering from your seat when they play “Horrorshow” for the first time in the practice room and it all falls together like a well worn pair of jeans.

Each member of the band gets a chance to tell their side of the story and watching everyone interact with each other behind closed doors you get to see the relationships between all of them and also surprisingly get to understand that there is still a lot of laughter behind the headlines and drug stories. John Hassall ; the bass player and purveyor of forgotten chords and riffs leading the charge in the rehearsal room comes out of his back stage persona shell and helps explain the relationship between each member as well as Carl and Peter’s own sometimes twisted friendship which while perfectly matched is also volatile and ready to explode at any one time (this is explained by Barat as an almost verbal jousting match between the two whenever they meet, from a few jokey comments with subtle undertones of spite they then battle back and forward, neither wanting to back down first and there within lies the core of the fire that burns within the group)

The Libertines are the last in a chain of bands that happened without an industry machine pushing them into success, it happened by them personally creating a scene and a group of fans that would follow them to the end of the earth and back and not since Oasis change the whole culture not just through music but also through fashion, drugs and literature (how many copies of The Picture of Dorian Gray flew off the shelves since The Libertines second album?)

Although well balanced and not judgemental about who’s fault it was to break up the band. Although at first it would seem the blame falls at Doherty’s door by reading the papers it seems more fitting that one would call Barat into the witness box and ask why he feels the entrapment of the band that defines him and why he feels the need to constantly push away from the “brand” and release his “own” music that can only (with the best intentions possible) fall very short of his previous work with the group.

Peter Doherty is a icon of his generation whether you like it or not, he has that on screen charisma and easy little lost boy way of speaking to the camera that draws you in while at the same time leading the waifs and strays of Whitechapel with him like a Byron pied piper while slowly dragging everyone into the arena of the un-well…but will he make it to the gig on time?

The film climaxes with the one-two hit of the London Forum warm up show and the defining set at Reading 2010 which in my opinion ranks up with the festivals best appearances ever and easily if not their own personal best. Is it a good bookend and finale for The Libertines or should they give it one more roll of the dice and make another album? The choice is seems sits at the feet of Carl, but as a new father and someone who is ready to put away childish things, is his heart really ready for another possible break if it doesn’t pan out the way it should or needs to? Are all memories now fond and warm of the good ol’ days or is the past better left in the past?

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