With their shaggy hair and their mod-style garage-punk energy, the London-based Libertines were being referred to as England’s answer to the Strokes even before their debut full-length came out earlier this year. The band’s lead vocals, which are split by guitarists/songwriters Peter Doherty and Carl Barat, have a nonchalant cool that does bring to mind Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, particularly on the opening “Vertigo,” a bold rock rave-up driven by John Hassal’s kinetic bass and the reckless backbeats of Gary Powell. And the guitars on “Death on the Stairs” jangle with the intricacy of a Strokes song.
But with former Clash/B.A.D. guitarist Mick Jones handling the production, the Libertines emphasize the punk side of the garage-punk equation. They flirt with chaos on the tempo-shifting anthem “Boys in the Band” and on “What a Waster,” a manic, big riff rocker that cracked the British Top 40 for a time. The result bristles with the same combination of hooks and insolence that fueled the first album by fellow British neo-punks Supergrass.