Editor’s note: In this recurring column, music writer Chris Duncan suggests two albums to listen to this week. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @chr_dunc, and your pick might appear in next week’s article.
The Libertines — The Libertines
When The Libertines made their debut in 1997, many British writers quickly grouped them with some of the UK’s best acts because of their innovative style. But their self-titled second album, defined the tumultuous relationship between frontmen Carl Barat and Pete Doherty.
It’s surprising this album even exists — when they recorded The Libertines, Doherty was fresh out of jail for burglarizing Barat’s home, and, just a few months later, Doherty entered rehab in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. His time with the band ended after he found himself awaiting another trial after pleading guilty to possession of an offensive weapon.
The album is not a last waltz nor an energetic exclamation; it’s a bitter effort. At one moment, Barat and Doherty detail the fun they share, but the next, they declare their hatred of their lives. The best moments are when they collectively give up and allow the listener to hear their exhaustion.
This blend of instability and ambition is what made some fans call them the most important band of their generation. Although the group split up in 2004, they recently reunited giving them another chance to prove fans right.
Tracks to listen to: "Can't Stand Me Now," "Music When The Lights Go Out," "Arbeit Macht Frei”
The Band — The Band
Music From Big Pink, The Band’s first album, came out of nowhere to surprise listeners with its broad approach to Americana, combining many elements to tell tragic stories. Although their second album, The Band, might be sonically similar, it was in fact a finely calculated effort.
Riding a wake of popularity from their association with Bob Dylan and an acclaimed Woodstock performance, The Band attempted and failed to record a second album in New York City. Determined to give the album a rustic and basement-like feel, they searched in 1969 for a new location to record and ultimately decided on a pool house in Hollywood.
Guitarist Robbie Robertson quickly took over songwriting duties, contributing to every song on the album. Although he was born in Canada, Robertson chose a concept approach to the album, concentrating on the struggles and successes of a typical blue collar American during the 19th century.
Although Robertson’s lyrics were more in depth than expected, fans were quickly drawn toward the group’s homely sound. Levon Helm’s hypnotic drums drove home Robertson’s riffs and harmonies along with bassist Rick Danko and singer and pianist Richard Manuel, creating a timeless feeling to each song.
Tracks to listen to: "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Jawbone," "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)"