Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: Cooking Vinyl Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Some rock’n’roll dogs were born to hunt in packs. Lifelong devotees to the last gang in town, they’re tied to their brothers with a frayed guitar string, a shared uniform and the bond of WWI trench survivors. The 36-year-old Carl Barât is one such wolf that could never go lone. His self-titled 2010 solo album, coming after the first Libertines reunion, indulged his baroque theatrical bent, but didn’t make space for his ravenous natural bite.
“Don’t touch me, you’re a marked man now/ You can say goodbye to the last gang in town,” rasps Carl Barât on the opening song, Glory Days, kicking off 35 minutes of punky swagger that reignites the Libertinesesque notion of bands being blood brothers. Having said that, the “gang” on this record is pretty much Barât himself: he recorded most of Let it Reign before the Jackals existed. So the album’s themes are ones he’s explored before, scratched into 10 brief, snarling tracks.
Originally intended to be the second solo album from Carl Barât, Let It Reign became the first full-length from the former Libertine and his new band the Jackals. It was a wise move to make this album a band effort -- Barât's self-titled 2010 offering fell victim to the indulgence that often plagues the solo ventures from members of acclaimed groups. To be fair, Carl Barât arrived at a time when he may have felt it necessary to distance himself from the Libertines' legacy; while he was making this album, the Libs were playing sold-out reunion shows and preparing to make new music.
Widely known as one-half of the combustible songwriting duo in early-aughts rabble rousers, the Libertines, Carl Barat is back with a solo outing released with his newly formed backing band, the Jackals. Titled Let It Reign, the album blasts through in a short and compact ten-track, 35-minute running time, leaving little space for breathing room as songs are fired off in rapid succession with a degree of critical urgency. Although Barat wrote much of the album’s material prior to the tryout style auditioning process that led him to the current members of the Jackals, he’s stated in interviews that his desire to flesh out his songs with a stronger punch was a reaction to his hesitancy to seem “apologetic” about his songs.
Carl Barât's & the Jackals' debut may be overshadowed by news that the Libertines have their first new album in 11 years in the works, with an expected release date later this year. The Libertines' standard is a tough one to meet, but Barat does admirably here; the best songs on Let It Reign prove Barat still has that rough and tumble vigour in him, an irresistible combo of jaunty riffs and fierce delivery of lyrics with a disenchanted attitude and charming British accent. "Victory Gin" is like suave Sleeper but beefed up with choppy chords and horns, while the guitar on the verses in "Ware of the Roses" recall Blur's Modern Life is Rubbish.
It's an odd decision for Carl Barât to be releasing what is essentially his second solo album not long before the release of the eagerly anticipated album from his perennially popular reformed group, The Libertines. Tacking on The Jackals, musicians he found through online ads and then vetted, much like a music competition show (albeit at a pub in London, England), Let It Reign is very much Barât's solo work. The follow-up to his self-titled solo debut in 2010, Let It Reign has been awaiting release for over a year.
No matter what album Carl Barât put out this year, it would be overshadowed by the reunion of his most famous project, The Libertines. Despite forming The Jackals (via online advertisements no less), his past will mire it all in nostalgia. This isn’t even the first time he’s made this mistake. Following the band’s 2010 reunion at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, he embarked on a tour to promote his rarely acknowledged self-titled solo debut.
No matter how ambivalent you feel about The Libertines’ on-going reunion, you have to imagine that you probably feel more warmly about it than The Jackals, the band recruited by Carl Barât via an elaborate open audition process pretty much immediately before announcing that he was getting his much more famous and successful other group back together. Still, Barât always seemed like a decent sort – at least by contrast to you-know-who – and it’s to his credit, generally, that he didn’t just sack the entire Jackals project off the second the Libs reunion presumably alleviated any financial concerns he might have for the next decade or so. Let It Reign, then, is musically probably the most Libertines-sounding material that either Barât or that Doherty chap have put out since the group disbanded: a full rock band effort, without the polish of Barât’s Dirty Pretty Things or the eccentricities of Doherty’s Babyshambles.
With the Libertines on course to finally release their third album this year, it seems odd timing for guitarist Carl Barât to be resuscitating a solo career that appeared to be over five years ago. His recently convened backing band, the Jackals, bring impressive energy to this punk-inspired set. However, even when they change into a lower gear, there is little of the subtlety or melodic nous that can make Barât’s collaborations with Pete Doherty so beguiling – for the most part, these songs just sound as if they’re being bashed out at a slower tempo.
It’s been a disappointing decade for Carl Barât. Lumbering awkwardly from project to project in the years since the last violent chord strum of ‘What Became of The Likely Lads’, the trio of albums that he’s released post-Pete (two with Dirty Pretty Things plus a largely-forgotten solo effort) still sound extremely pedestrian in comparison to the reckless energy that defined The Libertines’ initial tenure. True to form, Barat’s first album with new band, The Jackals, is the most worrying example to date of its creator’s curdled craft.
Carl Barat & the Jackals Let It Reign (Grand Jury Music) Odd for Carl Barat, after famously returning last year to the Libertines – his Aughties London band with Pete Doherty that made electric guitars and shambolic/romantic/literary garage-punk cool in Britannia for a time – to forge ahead with the band he formed pre-reunion from online ads. Yet Barat's return to loud guitars following his 2010 chamber pop solo debut shows retaining the Jackals may be wise. Given a more American rock production by the Bronx's Joby Ford, Let It Reign indulges such non-Libs turf as reggae-metal ("Glory Days") and Zep-heavy riffs with muted trumpets ("Victory Gin").