For anyone familiar with scruffy legends The Libertines, the name Carl Barât will bring up the image of a figure clad in black skinny jeans and leather jacket, looking for his catwalk. His previous bands have been known for their dishevelled rock and roll take on indie music, with simple production. However, Carl Barât seems to have moved on in his life since these days though, and he has created an album to reflect how grown up he has become. Barât claims that he got bored of being in his “comfort zone [of]… knowing I could play a few Libertines songs and ‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’ to a dwindling and increasingly disappointed audience” and is now an expectant father, and it sounds as if he has matured as a result.
The cover, with Barât front centre while a girl appears to be leaving, is very representative of the album. Over half of the album could be attributed to his experiences within relationships, portrayed through these bittersweet pop songs. While one may not start humming tunes from this album immediately having heard it, there is some very strong song-writing evident here. ‘The Fall’ and ‘Shadows Fall’ could well be amongst the finest songs Barât has ever written.
What is particularly exciting about this record is how good Barât’s voice sounds. Restricted from the yelps over upbeat, distorted guitars we are used to, he seems to suit the downbeat pop ballads on this album, his voice resting beautifully upon the slightly unfamiliar instrumentation. There are a few disappointing moments, however; ‘Run With The Boys’, for example, is a rather forgettable song and incidentally the only thing which seems to share a sonic lineage with his previous work. Barât seems at his strongest on this record when he attempts to completely eschew his musical roots, and perhaps would have made a better album had he been brave enough to wholeheartedly change direction.
Carl Barât’s solo debut is a work which gets better with each listen. The finer moments are the more downbeat ones, and the final song ‘Ode To A Girl’ leaves us wanting more, and one can’t help thinking had he kept the standard up throughout the album it would be a far more exciting record. Though this record has its moments of mediocrity, it is certainly a step in the right direction for Barât and an admirable attempt at a new direction.
7 out of 10