Carl Barat, one half of The ex Libertines front men…wait; he’s back with them now isn’t he? But he’s just about to release an album with the Jackals? What’s that, he’s in both bands!? Well, amid the confusion lets just say that The Libertines are back together, everyone’s friends again and Carl Barat is also releasing a record with another bunch of rock-stylised musicians in the form of The Jackals. With all that cleared up, lets get on with the review of new album Let It Reign shall we?
Carl must have been a bit lonely after his self-titled solo debut, so he decided to hold auditions and get a few more boys back in the band to inject a bit if atmosphere back into proceedings. And what Let it Reign does is take bits and pieces from all the bands he’s been in, and all the influences he’s used, and throw them all into one neat little package. The record starts off with Glory Days; you’re thrown straight back into heavy guitars set against a reggae beat, reminiscent of early Libertines demos. The difference is that this is propped up against the sea shanty vocals of later band project Dirty Pretty Things. This works well for an album opener, and with the wailing guitars and sordid and sultry feel, we see Carl looking back at his past exploits with a gentle nod to early 90s indie.
Victory Gin – which was written with Jonny Marr in mind – throws away the thought of any beautiful guitar playing from the Smiths legend, and instead goes for a raucous heavy feel, declaring ‘This is not a song for lovers’. Its heart pumping arrogance help it race along, but what brings it down to earth and overcomes the simplicity is the subtle innocence in the lyrics – something Libertines fans will be familiar with. Beginning to see leads into something more akin to his solo work with a stage musical feel set against pop connotations and honesty, whereas Summer in the Trenches invites the listener into a torn down world of clever melodies and a track spanning his whole career. It’s a shout out to the new batch of kids who may have missed out on the early days as he whales ‘There is nowhere left to run, it’s not my generation but lets have some fun’.
What’s striking about the record is that it’s undeniably Carl Barat. You don’t have a real feel for the band mentality he was apparently trying to portray because it sounds like his whole body of past work rolled into one. This isn’t a bad thing, but does beg the question of why so much effort went into getting a band instead of session musicians. Maybe it helped get the creative juices flowing again, or he just had more people to drink with; whatever the reason, it’s worked a treat.
Let it Rain see’s Carl in reminiscent mood again and is a finish to a strong record with a relaxed feel and the most ballad driven track on the album. It helps show where Carl’s been, where it’s got him, and is almost getting the listener comfy for the next step in the singers career – likely to be a new Libs album. Carl’s proved he can do it solo, do it in different styles, and do it well. Let it Reign is a big record that shouldn’t just be seen as the calm before the storm…