This week, 10 years ago, The Libertines released their debut album Up the Bracket and gave the British indie scene back to the youth it belonged to. This wasn't just a great collection of songs, it was a musical manifesto set out by Peter Doherty and Carl Barat that would inspire a generation and beyond.
To understand what a revelation Up the Bracket was, you had to have been there before. At the beginning of the millennium, the British indie scene looked like a Y2K party that had reached an embarrassing end. Instead of burst balloons and used party poppers, we had the remnants of the glory days of Britpop still fluttering around the charts, and in place of a dancing dad we had Coldplay and Toploader. For the people coming of age at this time their voices seemed lost.
Perhaps for the first time ever, music seemed to be being made for the old rather than the young. Yes, as a young person coming of age in new millennium Britain it seemed as if there was nothing to relate to. Then in 2001 The Strokes happened, five boys in leather jackets bringing back old fashioned rock 'n' roll. But despite the messy hair and rock uniform the New York band still had a more polished feel than most young Britain's could relate to. In order to resurrect the British rock scene it would take something truly exceptional, truly unique to speak to the masses.
In 2001 Rough Trade records took a chance on Peter Doherty, Carl Barat, John Hassall and Gary Powell, and that was all it took to begin the revolution. The core of the band, Doherty and Barat had been writing songs and playing together since 1997, so far finding little success with their unique brand of indie. Doherty was a self-described poet, versed in Wilde and Keats with romantic notions of England, which he called Albion. Barat was a skilled guitarist influenced by Django Reinhardt and Lou Reed. Their live performances possessed the raw, frantic energy of a band who knew that any gig could be their last. Before they had even released an album they had already gained the attention of the British music press, particularly the NME who put them on the cover in the summer of 2002.
Up the Bracket was the 12 songs, the 40 minutes that anyone under the age of 21 had been holding their breath for. All the feelings of hopelessness, inadequacy, the stories of love and too many late nights had by the young had been put down on record in the most eloquent fashion. Doherty and Barat became the storytellers of a new generation and promised to tell this story in a way which had never been done before. In one album the band created almost a cult around them where followers spoke of dreams of Albion and Arcadia.
From the twisted poetic story telling of Death on the Stairs to the barroom sing-along feel of The Boy Looked at Johnny, the highs and lows of a new generation were uncovered. In Time for Heroes, where Doherty opens by asking: "Did you see the stylish kids in the riot?" the listener is taken on a whirlwind romantic journey of images of Wombles, Bill Bones, warnings against baseball caps and the knowledge that "we'll die in the class we were born, well that's a class of our own, my love". Yes, Doherty's screams in the opening seconds of Up the Bracket were the screams of a generation finally being let loose. The album's perfect structure meant you never quite knew where you were. As you drift away to Radio America, "what a shame she slipped in the rain, poor dancing girl well she won't dance again", you're immediately shaken back into reality by the title track. And as the album draws to a close, The Good Old Days gives you a mixture of sadness and regret for the past, but also offers hope if you haven't "lost your faith in love and music".
The generation who went out and bought Up the Bracket didn't experience The Beatles, Sex Pistols or The Smiths and they didn't need to either. With this album they found a soundtrack that was unique to them and captured their hopes, fears and imagination. Ten years on I still get chills when I listen to it, finding it was like discovering the key to unlock my imagination. For every generation there is an album that perfectly captures a time and the sentiments of those on the verge of adulthood. I'm proud to say that I am of the generation who can have Up the Bracket as our piece in musical history.
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