No matter what album Carl Barât put out this year, it would be overshadowed by the reunion of his most famous project, The Libertines. Despite forming The Jackals (via online advertisements no less), his past will mire it all in nostalgia. This isn’t even the first time he’s made this mistake. Following the band’s 2010 reunion at the Reading and Leeds Festivals, he embarked on a tour to promote his rarely acknowledged self-titled solo debut.
The Jackals’ first record, Let It Reign, does little to distance Barât from The Libertines. On the 10-track effort, he leads his new cohorts through rock and roll squalls and manic, haphazard guitar riffs. Save for the singles, it all feels inconsequential. It plays more like a young band who grew up worshipping Up the Bracket, rather than identifying with the songwriter who helped forge the sound.
Opener “Glory Days” sees Barât embracing his inner Joe Strummer. Scuzzy guitar lines blare over dub rhythms. It’s a promising start to the album, and Barât seems to thrive on the influence from his younger bandmates. “Victory Gin” and “A Storm Is Coming” both attempt to keep the energy going with arena-ready hooks and sharp guitar leads. Slowly the album begins to feel homogenous. Despite all the crunch and blaring distortion, there’s little to hang on to. By the time things wrap up with the title track, a slow, rolling power ballad, the past few songs feel like a foggy memory.
It’s apparent Barât is having a great time playing the ringleader. With all the turmoil and infighting The Libertines underwent, it’s no wonder he wanted a drama-free group. He’s definitely earned it. Selfishly, however, that sense of mayhem is sorely missed. Let’s hope he’s saved his best material for the reunion record.
Essential Tracks: “Glory Days”, “A Storm Is Coming”