Better to Be a Burnout Than to Fade Away

Flunking rehab, robbing bandmates, pulling a Courtney Love: The Libertines return

The Libertines know this. NME knows this, which is why the UK music magazine issued both a "Pete" cover and a "Carl" cover this summer, to keep the drama smoldering. If it were Shannon Hoon sitting on his tour bus, watching the bee girl rapidly diminish in the rearview mirror with nary a hummable hook on the horizon, we'd merely yawn. But because the Libertines are talented, they're getting free passes. Then they're dousing their free passes in kerosene and waving them over a roaring fire. And they won't burn for very long.

Youth isn't wasted on the young when the young decide to get wasted: The Libertines
Roger Sargent
Youth isn't wasted on the young when the young decide to get wasted: The Libertines

In July, in an effort to soldier on, Barat made a compelling promotional appearance for The Libertines at a marketing firm in New York, with only his guitar and a broken heart. A few weeks later he returned (minus Doherty, unless you count Doherty's image on his T-shirt) with a full band in tow. I wanted to cheer, but was left with the feeling one might get seeing Paul Revere and the Raiders at Float-Rite with only one original member (the tambourinist) left. If it was 2038, Doherty's absence would have been fine. If a pause is necessary to keep the band and its members alive, record or no record, then please, lads, pause.

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