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Carl Barat – Carl Barat

Carl Barat, Carl Barat LP

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

CARL Barat describes his solo debut album as a departure for him, which has allowed him to do things his own way and with his own sense of style.

It’s certainly different from the sound of The Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things, enabling the singer-songwriter and former drama student to explore his feelings about love, loss and friendship. But it’s only partially successful.

When keeping things upbeat and celebratory, the album comes alive; when mourning lost loves and past relationships it can be ponderous and a little too despairing.

Fortunately, it starts very brightly. Opening track The Magus has an Eastern European flavour to it, unfolding like a magic box with edgy stop-start percussion and cinematic piano and electronic arrangements, offset by warnings such as “men can be animals” and “keep your wits about you”.

Je Regrette, Je Regrette, meanwhile, keeps the pace brisk with some Libertines-styled guitar riffs, a rollicking drum beat and some almost angelic backing vocals that serve as a nice contrast to soul-searching, but punchily delivered, lyrics such as “I’m a wretch, I’m a wretch, a tosser at a stretch”. Such moments display a humour and self-deprecating style that’s missing later on.

Another highlight then arrives in the form of the rousing, acoustic ballad She’s Something, which celebrates a special lady and the singer’s own emotional fallibility (“we need more time”).

Carve My Name is Carl’s Fyfe Dangerfield moment… albeit with moodily layered strings and an almost cinematic sensibility adorning its tale of break-up and regret. It’s a fine song and not too downbeat so as to bring the listener down with it.

He picks things up again for the jaunty summer-time pop of Run With The Boys, which boasts one of the LP’s most infectious and radio-friendly choruses, and some classic boys’ own values – again tapping into relationship anxiety.

Thereafter, the album inches towards more and more darker themes, while continuing to take artistic ‘risks’. The Fall, for instance, is an almost entirely spoken record, with sparse string arrangements and a kooky sensibility that seems to fly in the face of its lyrical uncertainty surrounding the slow, painful deterioration of yet another relationship.

It leads, almost effortlessly, into yet another break-up anthem, albeit one that arrives with a greater sense of verve, in the form of So Long, My Lover, which retains an upbeat sense of melody and chorus in spite of its themes. If anything, it’s a farewell track from a man who has accepted the fate of the relationship.

Alas, Barat finds himself immediately bedevilled by doubt and regret on the sombre What Have I Done, which nevertheless manages to combine an intimate chorus with some nice musical arrangements. It’s a good song, but marks something of a backward step thematically for the LP.

The darkness and/or broodiness continues, though, with Shadows Fall and Ode To A Girl, which end things with more of a whimper than a bang – which is a shame given the early enthusiasm that set things going.

Barat’s debut is therefore an interesting record. Assured, experimental and very open emotionally, it showcases a different and often surprising side to the artist, which still confirms him as the genuine talent behind The Libertines.

But while there are many moments to savour, the eventually downbeat nature of the LP does eventually take its toll. Hence, what begins brightly, slowly runs out of steam.

Overall, then, it’s a mixed bag – a solo debut to admire rather than love, which still boasts some great moments.

Editor’s note: It’s worth noting that the LP has been timed to coincide with the release of Barat’s book Threepenny Memoir, which also comes out today.

Download picks: Je Regrette, Je Regrette, She’s Something, Carve My Name, Run With The Boys, So Long, My Lover

Track listing:

  1. The Magus
  2. Je Regrette, Je Regrette
  3. She’s Something
  4. Carve My Name
  5. Run With The Boys
  6. The Fall
  7. So Long, My Lover
  8. What Have I Done
  9. Shadows Fall
  10. Ode To A Girl