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Arcady Records – October 2010

The lesser known former frontman of The LibertinesCarl Barât has released his self titled solo album after the break up of Dirty Pretty Things.

Following the successful reunion gigs of The Libertines and preceding Threepenny Memoir, his tell-all book, Carl Barât comes at an opportune time. The cynical may say that the British singer-songwriter finally reunited with his infamous co-frontman Pete Doherty in order to fuel this buzz. But unfortunately the drama and attention stalks his notorious partner in crime.

Regardless, ‘The Magus’ begins the album with scuffling percussion and there’s an instant feeling of novelty from The Libertines‘ sound. Lyrically there is less use of magical realism and a greater use of metaphor “Men can be animals / Cut throats and juggernauts”. From the outset you also hear a deviation as it is less guitar-centric and more piano based. We are reminded that not everything isn’t necessarily left behind as Barât sings “don’t forget the good old days”.

Surprisingly the next song ‘Je Regrette, Je Regrette’ sounds somewhat sprightly which clashes with its content “I’m a wretch, I’m a wretch, / A tosser at a stretch”. The typically colloquial phrases clash with the sentimental romanticism of the title but the sentiment of regret does set the theme of the album.

Equally it would be difficult to imagine either of his previous bands setting such a minimalistic role for the guitar, as heard in ‘She’s Something’. The score and simplicity of the repeated lyrics, “We need more time” allows for a mellow, considered and sparser style.

The first single to be released off Carl Barât’s new album ‘Run With The Boys’ is a more punchy upbeat track, perfect for easing former fans into his new aesthetic. The topic of lost hopes, broken dreams, dilapidation and decrepit opulence will be all too familiar but the sound has matured. The line leading into the first chorus “I guess I’m still the same”  contrasts the cheery chorus, “Running with boys night after night / How do our candles still burn bright / In the morning”. This mixture makes it the most catchy song on the album.

The album is a long list of only slightly differentiated narratives. Songs such as the dreary, dramatic and romantic ‘The Fall’ and ‘So Long, My Lover’ are both about the ending of relationships and the uncertainty that follows. Likewise ‘Shadows Fall’ is a ripped back, stripped expression of regrets and heartache. ‘Ode to a Girl’ follows the motif of regret in love as the title is repeated with a light drum beat and tinkling piano.

The shockingly different ‘Death Fires Burn At Night’ departs from the dynamic of the album as it snarls into existence akin to a Britannic Death From Above 1979. Comically it has a similar tune to Queens of Noize’s obscure spoof ‘Indie Boys (Don’t Deserve It)’. If you can get past that, the track stands out as an experimentation of the old and the new.

The final ‘Irony of Love’ rounds off with a return to the former theme of the album with a melodic love story leading to his “own sweet demise”. Although the lines “Not gonna get my fucking head kicked in, / Not gonna die n a fucking loony bin” is still suggestive of The Libertine straight-talking, self deprecating approach (or like a lot of fans, I can’t leave the past behind). Though, the added “Oh Darling” does make all the difference in sweetness.

This album on first listen shows progression but gives the impression that it has not been fully realised or developed into something substantial and engrossing. Expect a growing appreciation of the album’s maturity and the departure from Barât’s history (despite how much you love it).

Carl Barât – Run With The Boys

Also posted on InQuire Live.