Last night, amid a rush of hushed typing, news broke that The libertines were selling tickets to their upcoming Up The Bracket anniversary tour on a ‘seat-filling’ website. It was likely a shrewd move from the band’s management to stoke up some extra ticket sales amid a flurry of newsworthy activity. But the whole debacle left me scratching my head a little.
That’s because, for my money, there hasn’t been an album that completely changed pop culture as effectively as The Libertines did with Up The Bracket back in 2002. Celebrating its second decade on the planet may be a stretch for some of the band’s fans who wish to remember those moments in the crystalline beauty of their mind’s eye, but to ignore the seismic impact of the album is to blind yourself to one of Britain’s finest bands.
In 2000, the rock ‘n’ roll scene was dead. Britain’s Britpop era had naturally consumed itself with commercialism as an after-dinner mint. The sonic landscape looked bleak but for a shining light from over the Atlantic in the form of New York’s uber-cool band The Strokes. Made up of the sons of film producers and models, all as clean as the lines they shoved up their nose, the group were America’s own rag-tag gang. The Libertines were our answer to The Strokes, our fish and chips to their burger and fries, our Lord Byron to their Hemmingway.
Up The Bracket was released amid a furore of rap metal and under the shadow of Britpop. The formative genre had sold its soul to the devil the moment Noel Gallagher posed with Tony Blair and claimed Cool Britannia was a new way of living. Its sense of disregard for the economic boom was all summed up by The Libertines and their leading front men—and best friends—Carl Barat and Peter Doherty, who used poetic justice as a reason to explore the exponential wisdom of destroying yourself.
This is the notion that feels so pertinent today. We needn’t dive into the album itself, despite being one of the ultimate records of the era and helping to define the boom of indie music that followed because the sentiment of the group is so vital today. The Libertines may have been adopted by a rosary-wearing trilby doffing set of yobs that tarnished their image, but the truth is they always operated as challenging, anti-authoritarian observers of the new world. Their songs are drenched in the reality of their poetic leanings and doused with enough fuel to set parliament alight.
The message of freedom, unrestrained love and uncomplicated compassion for all humans that left an indelible mark on the music industry in 2002 is still vitally important today. It makes the idea that people aren’t willing to rush to ticket sites to pick up a chance to hear this song performed by the band, who are quite possibly at the tightest they’ve ever been, a little confusing. Add the expert talent of The Cribs and Paddingtons supporting, and you have yourself one hell of a show.
With The Libertines, it can be very easy to get caught up in the furore of lad rock mischief they left behind in their wake. It’s true that for every member of the band’s fanbase that saw the poetry of it all, there was a lad who just wanted to wear a trilby and drink gin. It’s also true that Pete Doherty’s tabloid escapades and the unfurling of the 2000s indie scene have all contributed to the band’s overlooked status. But there’s one thing to remember, The Libertines were the real deal and will be again on this tour.
Buy tickets for The Libertines’ 20th anniversary Up The Bracket tour here.