- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

Dirty Pretty Things

Waterloo to Anywhere


The dissolution of the Libertines 21/2 years ago was one of the most lamented — and infamous — of band breakups in recent years. Frontmen Pete Doherty and Carl Barat co-wrote two albums together, released in 2002 and 2004, that helped reinvigorate British music. However, Mr. Doherty’s well-publicized struggles with cocaine and heroin abuse caused a rift with his partner, culminating in a prison sentence for burglary when Mr. Doherty broke into Mr. Barat’s apartment.

That falling out may have been the best thing that ever happened to Mr. Barat, if his latest project is any indication. He took Libertines drummer Gary Powell and added bassist Didz Hammond and guitarist Anthony Rossomando (who filled in for Mr. Doherty on the band’s final tour) and assembled a new band, Dirty Pretty Things. The foursome share writing credits on their debut album, “Waterloo to Anywhere,” but Mr. Barat clearly is the driving force behind this accomplished disc.

“Waterloo to Anywhere” places Dirty Pretty Things squarely in the grand tradition of British disenchantment, from the Kinks through Pink Floyd to the Sex Pistols. Those are big shoes to fill. “Waterloo” isn’t another “Village Green Preservation Society,” but more than any of the Libertines’ work, “Waterloo” shows that Mr. Barat has promise to match his ambition.

“No one [cares] about the values I would die for,” Mr. Barat complains in “Gin and Milk.” “Not the faceless civil servants, the rudimentary crack whore.”

“Give me something to die for,” he pleads.

Could Mr. Barat, 28, be speaking for his entire generation?

“Waterloo’s” lyrics are very English, but the music can be compared to that of the American band the Strokes (garage rock) and the Scottish group Franz Ferdinand (guitar-based songs you can dance to). Dirty Pretty Things’ name encapsulates its sound: gritty, punk-influenced guitar under surprisingly melodious vocals.

The group wears its influences easily, seamlessly sliding from the glam rock of “If You Love a Woman” to the punk “You … Love It.” Both songs, edged together as the CD’s eighth and ninth tracks, share a singular theme: the awful things men sometimes do to women.

“Gentry Cove,” an affecting song about war, combines ska and a guitar riff that resembles a traditional Celtic sea song.

Still, even amid such themes as abusive love, war and social isolation, it’s hard not to think that some of the songs are directed toward Mr. Barat’s old band mate. “Wondering” features both the political and the personal: “And it occurred to me, I think on Lambeth Road, there’s no more need to question life or cry for what I’m owed. And now it’s over, so now it’s done. The English sun is setting and the rude boy’s on the run.”

Mr. Doherty’s drug abuse also may have inspired the album’s best track, the urgent, driving opener “Dead Wood”: “You got the world, boy. Is this all you make it? You had the choice, lad. You wouldn’t take it. The oldest charm, only the best for you.”

“Waterloo to Anywhere” is angrier and a bit more raw than the Libertines’ final, self-titled LP. Dirty Pretty Things have proved a Nietzschean maxim — that whatever doesn’t kill you makes your music stronger.

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