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Paint a vulgar picture

So, that’s it. The infamous Libertines Best Of, Time for Heroes, is out next Monday, October 29th, in every record store of Euroland (some countries might even have it a few days earlier, whereas the US release is scheduled on December 4th). If you can’t wait till Monday you can listen to the affair on line at Gigwise. It should be a great event for all the Libertines fans in the world. Sadly, it is not. “The Libertines are releasing a Greatest Hits” screamed Gigwise one month ago “but fans don’t want it”.
"No surprise, Libertines fans are the usual sad, whining, capricious mummy’s boys".
No, no mummy’s boys this time. First of all, this release has been smelling like a total pisstake since the first day it was announced. And the first thing that has to be said is that the Libertines aren’t releasing anything. Someone else is, though, and they have nothing to do with Pete Doherty, Carl Barat, John Hassal and Gary Powell. Let’s make it clear: Time for Heroes is the third Libertines album released by Rough Trade, or better, it’s the third Libertines album the Libertines should have released with Rough Trade (according to their contractual obligations) and never did, because they broke up soon after the release of the second album.

And, of course, when we say Rough Trade we say Geoff Travis. If we still needed some more evidence showing who’s the real man behind this operation, Travis himself swept away all our doubts putting up a myspace page to promote the release of Time for Heroes.

This is what you read in his page:
“Rough Trade Records are proud to announce the release of Time For Heroes - The Best Of The Libertines, on October 29th. Bringing together the tracks that defined a generation and sold a million records, produced by The Clash's Mick Jones from their epochal debut Up The Bracket and feted, self-titled follow-up (and No. 1 album), Time For Heroes is a timely reminder of the unique talent of Albion's favourite sons Pete Doherty, Carl Barât, John Hasall and Gary Powell. Rough Trade's Geoff Travis and Jeanette Lee: "The Libertines were the best and most influential band of the last decade, please forget the hype and just listen to the music."

Geoff Travis is considered by many people as the man who “discovered” the Libertines in 2001, in the same way he is still considered as the man who “discovered” the Smiths in 1982. So he’s no newbie, he’s an old fox. At the end of the Smiths short career, and after the band had already moved to EMI (oh history repeating!), Morrissey penned two gorgeous, bitter songs dedicated to Travis, You just haven’t earned it yet baby, and of course Paint a vulgar picture, describing his former record company (once hailed as the gem of the indie labels) as a money grabbing machine, totally incapable of promoting their jewels as they deserved and only able to squeeze them like a lemon for their mere interests only. But at least, in the Smiths’ case, Rough Trade had the decency to release a beautiful live album after the band’s demise, Rank. In the Libertines’ case decency has totally gone to the wind. And yet they should have some good live recordings in their archives, that’s for sure. But a Best of? Of a band who just released TWO albums? What’s the point of all this? And most of all, who’s going to buy this damn record?

Let’s listen to a sample of Libertines fans:
“I have no intention of buying it; this seems pretty pointless, rough trade just making some easy cash”
“I already have all the songs on officially released copies so I really can't see the point in buying this”
“Absolutely not. I don't want anything to do with it”.
At first I wanted it, cos I'm a completist, but I find it hard to get behind when the band themselves didn't even know about it. Upon reflection, I'll probably skip it”.
“Nope, I'm actually kind of pissed off that they're releasing it. I hope nobody buys it”.
“If I see it in stores here for a reasonable price, I'll probably pick it up just because that encourages them to carry other such items in the future, but I'm not going to go out of my way to get it. Would be a completely different story if there was anything particularly interesting on it”.
“...I really don´t get this release. Do they [=rough trade] want to make some new fans? But why, if this group doesn´t exist anymore? Do they want "old" fans to buy it? Why, if there´s no extra on it and most do have the original 2 albums anyway? And, both of the 2 albums together would be still cheaper then this best of... I don´t get it. But I don´t have to anyway. I won´t buy it”.
“No, I wont buy it, I guess it just a way to make money”.

Of course, if we had to judge by these replies, Time for Heroes is probably going to be the flop of the century. But not all the fans are so critical. The myspace page has also messages from people who appreciate this release (I hope Travis didn’t send those messages himself!):
“Cant wait to get it. One of the greatest bands ever. nuff said”
“The Libertines were a great great band!!! Anyone who has not listened to them before should certainly buy this album, Long live the memory!!!”
Now, this last message. Actually somebody might argue that people who “weren’t there” when the Libertines were in full flight could benefit from the release of this album and then discover their back catalog. Yes, this would have some sense if the band had released at least four or five albums, as was the Smiths’ case. But the Libertines only released 2 CDs, and both of them are easily traceable in any record store in the world. Besides, we have internet now. Which means iTunes, and myspace, and Youtube. With lots of official and unofficial recordings, footages, bootlegs etc. Anybody who really wants to know who and what the Libertines were, have only to switch on their PCs and a whole new world is at hand.
I understand Rough Trade’s point of view in this matter. The Libertines were their last jewels, they let them go without skipping a beat (first they got rid of Carl Barat because they thought he was a hopeless case then they kicked out Peter too after the alleged flop of Down in Albion) and they’re probably still eating their hands for that. But maybe it’s too late, Mr. Travis. Maybe you should start looking around and find another lemon to squeeze.

To me, the Libertines Best Of was released 5 years ago and is called Up the Bracket. However, I would be happy if the much anticipated “The Arcadian Dream”, featuring the old recordings of the 1999-2000 era, was finally released. Mr. Razzcocks assures us it will but “negotiations” are still taking place. If a third Libertines album must come out, then The Arcadian Dream could be a candidate. BUT I’m an incurable optimist, and I’m still convinced that a third Libertines album will come out one day and it will feature at least a dozen of new songs, because as much as I like Babyshambles and Dirty Pretty Things I still see them as pure spin off bands, and having witnessed the happiness on Peter’s and Carl’s faces during the legendary reunion of last April, I don’t think anything could be better for those two (and for us) than going back to writing songs together again.

Reviews of Times for Heroes are starting to appear in the papers. The NME gave it a 7/10 rating (here’s the review). There are no words yet from any of the members of the band, but that’s understandable. Peter is busy enough promoting Shotters Nation, John is struggling with his band, and Carl and Gary are busy fighting UFOs and fires. Another evidence that the Libertines have nothing to do with this release, if we ever needed it.


Matt W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimbob baggins said...

while i really like the sentiment of this post, i think bits of it are realy far fetched. from what i can gather, geoff travis worked bloody hard to keep the libertines on the straight and narrow. i remember he dedicated his entire speech to pete in 2003 when rough trade were honoured for 25 years service to music by mojo. ahead of all the great bands he's signed (smiths, bsp, strokes) he dedicated his entire award to pete doherty and asked everyone to will him on to get better and produce more great music. that's a big statement to make at such a public event.

also, rough trade's early nurturing of the libertines was to my mind perfect for the band. they kept them in cotton wool for the right amount of time and kept faith in them when pete and carl's publishers (emi, funnily enough) didnt.

that myspace quote from rough trade was also signed from geoff's business partner jeanette lee, yet you don't seem to say anything about her on this matter. she doesnt even get a mention, yet you blame geoff completely. i suppose this is because morrissey didn't write any songs about her is it?? i'll tell you what it is - it's a totally shallow and poorly constructed argument (with good sentiment).

yes i hate the idea of a libertines best of. yes the tracklisting is awful and yes, noone will buy it.

but - apart from a very shakey and inconclusive response from pete on xfm recently, which i personally would take with a pinch of salt - none of the libs have actually denied approving this. don't you find that curious? i bloody do.

if they were half as upset about it as you like to imagine, then surely theyd have said something? but of course, as soon as they do register their disgust in public you can be totally sure that absolutely noone will buy it. it'll put an end to this whole affair if one of the libs said they dont want people buying it.

so, with that in mind, i'll expect carl, john, gary and pete to pipe up with disgust just as soon as the album has done it's duty and slipped out of the top 100.

don't believe all that you assume, until it's been confirmed by the band at least.