In 2002 the musical landscape in Britain was unfailingly bleak. Angst-riddled teenage middle class rebellion was soundtracked by a dirge of American nu-metal bands in backwards baseball and silly masks, Toploader were dancing in the moonlight – or at least on Jamie Oliver’s roof – Travis were still perpetually getting rained on, Coldplay were Coldplay and the Beddingfields were the face of British pop, essentially it was a shit time to be 15.
10 years ago this week, one band and one album changed this. The Libertines – Up The Bracket.
The Libertines were everything their contemporaries were not, dynamic, rebellious, exciting, they played ‘guerrilla gigs’ for fans at their flat, and in Pete Doherty and Carl Barat and their red military tunics they had a captivating focal point.
Equally, at a time when my classmates were – in the main – wearing baggy jeans and listening to Korn, they were mine.
Pop at its best inspires an interest in surrounding culture and art forms, Up The Bracket did this, it opened my eyes to the world around me, I read novel’s I’d have otherwise never heard of, watched repeats of Steptoe & Son and Hancock’s Half Hour on UK Gold, dug out my dad’s old Kinks, Clash and Smiths records; for a 15 year old it was revolutionary.
Musically it wasn’t too shabby either, from the opening bars of Vertigo it hit you like the punch ‘up the bracket’ it famously referenced, making you stand up and take notice immediately. Almost always seemingly on the verge of collapse, it’s punky, spikey guitars as quintessentially British as the lyrics that referenced Albion (an archaic word for Britain), William Blake, The Krays and the May Day Riots. The likes of ‘Death on the Stairs’, ‘Time For Heroes’ and the title track became immediate ‘indie’ classics.
Whilst the band imploded shortly after the release of their self-titled follow up and have released no original material since, ‘Up The Bracket’ remains the most important British album of this millennium, the most important since ‘Definitely, Maybe’, it inspired a generation to pick up guitars – without ‘Up The Bracket’ there would be no Arctic Monkeys, no Maccabees, no Laura Marling.
Ten years on the faith in love and music remains.
By Callum West