Waterloo to Anywhere, Dirty Pretty Things' hastily-released debut, lyrically matches the personal turmoil of frontman Carl Barat after the drawn-out decimation of the Libertines, the band Barat co-fronted with his best friend/worst enemy, the heroin-snorting, model-banging rock idol Peter Doherty.
Musically, however, Waterloo is tight. It's full of noisy, punky ballads, driving lead guitars—not at all a letdown from the Libertines' brilliance—and is insanely resilient in the face of the pressure following his last album.
The Libertines self-titled album, released as the band broke apart, shot to No. 1 on the U.K. charts and carries songs that have been carved into the annals of British rock history. Doherty has been called the messiah of British rock and was seen as the creative songwriter in the duo, while Barat was praised for his instrumental and musical genius.
When Waterloo is held up against Doherty's attempt at a sans-Barat album, Down in Albion, with his new band Babyshambles—only amazing in that he found a band that would put up with his dangerous addictions—the disproportionate media attention Doherty received when the Libertines were together starts to look unfair. The Libertines' brilliance shone through in spite of, rather than because of, Doherty's impish flightiness and artistic addictions.
Doherty's voice is shot and tuneless in Down in Albion. It is musically rattled and unstable, causing critics to call the album "lazy." It also features a not-so-subtle jab at Barat by using several songs originally written for the Libertines.
The thematic diversity of the Libertines is unfortunately lost on both Doherty and Barat. Barat seems to be stuck in an emotional rut, perhaps understandably. After his painful break-up with Doherty—more Sid and Nancy than John and Paul—Barat suffered Doherty's constant criticisms in the press while remaining impressively silent.
Waterloo reflects this struggle. Songs like "Bloodthirsty Bastards" and "Doctors & Dealers" are bitter diatribes against multifarious antagonists. In "Gin and Milk," Barat laments, "No one gives a fuck about the values I would die for." "Bang Bang You're Dead," possibly the best song on the album, has Barat barking that it's time to "put all the rumors to bed."
In the end, Waterloo to Anywhere gets a solid three to three and a half stars. There are no counterparts to Libertines' heartwarming acoustic tracks "What Katie Did" and "France" on Waterloo. The note is bitterness, disillusionment and finding one's way through a long night of the soul. The music is loud, angry and unapologetic. Hopefully for the next album, anticipated this fall, Barat will be in love again and healed.
Barat commented about the upcoming album on his blog: "The musical range seems quite vast compared to Waterloo to Anywhere." We are crossing our fingers.