Album Review: Carl Barat and the Jackals, ‘Let It Reign’
Our English forebears have had an indelible hand in shaping the fundamental ideas of what rock and roll is. Four shaggy-haired Brits called the Beatles managed to make rock and roll the coolest thing since Levi's jeans. And in a time when popular musicians are feeling a bit too flat and establishment-friendly, a taste of that Old Country rebellion is refreshing.
If you agree, then it's likely you'll enjoy English punk Carl Barât's newest album, Let It Reign, recorded with his new band, the Jackals. It's 10 tracks of the best sort of kiss-my-ass rock the like of which only seems to be growing. (Maybe this is where I slip into my old man voice and shout, "Back in my day!", marking the watershed moment where words like "crotchety" and "curmudgeon" become accurate ways to describe me.)
Instead of slipping into a cut-rate Andy Rooney impression, I'll focus on the good. And in this case, the good is Let It Reign. Barât and his crew have mastered the sound of the four-piece rock outfit; his genius lies in his preternatural ability to create pop hooks that resonate with an internal snarl Barât seems to be holding back most of the time.
The opening track, "Glory Days," moves with the backbone beat of a Clash song, but drenched in heavy, distorted guitars poured over everything else like a thick syrup. The vocals call back to an earlier time in rock history, both in lyrical content and in delivery, and the melodies feel good in your head.
"Victory Gin" is made up of reckless guitars skipping over the song while Barât's vocals alternately glide along. It's a youthful middle-finger of a song, both in that it encourages some healthy dissent and it's soaked in unabashed earnestness.
Discussion about any song on Let It Reign has to touch on guitars. That's because this whole album seems to be a love letter to six strings plugged into a tube amp turned up loud enough to shake the knick knacks in the living room from the garage. And of course, we rarely see Barât without a guitar hung on his shoulder.
"A Storm Is Coming" is the guitar song that stands out among an album full of them. It could just be the dirty arpeggio that bookends the beginning and end of the track, but it makes me want to dust off my Stratocaster and start practicing scales again.
The beauty of this album is how succinct it is. Every song is exactly as long as it needs to be, and each song moves along smoothly from one to the next. As a whole, it's like listening to a conversation communicated with words, drums, bass and guitars.
We hope this is a good indication of what we can expect from the new Libertines album Barât and fellow Libertine Pete Doherty have in the works. So far, all we know is that one or two certain people are not working on it. But this gem from Barât will tide us over nicely for now.