Filled with angst, conviction and poignant earnestness, with rallying choruses like, ‘We are not afraid of anyone, I defy anyone to tell me I am wrong,’ (on “Victory Gin”), and even some martial horns and strings, what’s not to love here for Barât fans? Clash-isms, Brit garage riffs and Olde English shanty-style rhythms abound, yes, but there is also some thoughtful storytelling and a number of surprisingly wily, rude boy stompers such as “Summer in the Trenches” and “Gears”.
“Glory Days”, despite its bombastic chomp of guitars and Joe Strummeresque zeal, is oddly tame, and with its clunky refrain of “Glory days/you threw them all way/you should have known better,” comes across as one of the most predictable tracks on the album, despite its big sound. “We Want More” has a comforting, swirly, power pop rock vibe that veers on hair metal irony with its anthemic “yeah yeahs.” More interesting are the raucous stompers like “March of the Idle”, railing against cultural apathy (a worthy cause) with contrasts of highs and lows that slap towards a punk core with its shouted refrain, and especially the bittersweet 90s-styled, yet sweeping “War of the Roses”, an album standout centering around the idea that “nobody cares for me like you do” shared between two down-and-out, live by their wits, mates. It will be interesting to see how this latest solo/full rock band venture, in which Barât stays fairly close to his expected Brit rock sound book, differs from the the forthcoming Libertines album, which will rekindle his infamous songwriting partnership with Pete Doherty this year. “Let it Reign,” the stripped-down and heartfelt album finale, centers on a ponderous question, “why’d you make me lord just so that I can feel this pain?” that seems posed for this very pair. (Cooking Vinyl/Grand Jury)