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There’s something about the Libertines’ rock ‘n’ roll ambition that makes the band endearing even when it overreaches. Maybe it’s the way the band makes music that’s eager to please yet unrepentantly scuzzy. On Up the Bracket, the British quartet’s long-playing debut, songwriting singer-guitarists Pete Doherty and Carl Barât pinch plenty of melodic stardust from the likes of the Clash, the Buzzcocks, and the Jam, sprinkling it over gutter-level reportage of their knockabout lives. The thrashy rave-up “I Get Along” has that classic youthful defiance of everything and nothing in particular: “I get along just singing my song/People tell me I’m wrong/Fuck ’em.” And junkie vignette “What a Waster,” produced by Bernard Butler, swings as Suede never could, on Doherty and Barât’s growling guitars and drummer Gary Powell’s nail-gun beats—not to mention a sweetly vulgar singalong chorus of “mind yer bleedin’ own, you two-bob cunt.” A more refined piss-taking distinguishes “Time for Heroes,” whose disdain for “the stylish kids in the riot” includes the comparatively epigrammatic “He knows there’s fewer more distressing sights than that/Of an Englishman in a baseball cap.” Both the sentiment and the shambling hookiness are reminiscent of London Calling-era Clash, either thanks to or in spite of LP producer Mick Jones. It’s hard to imagine Jones’ contributions in the studio amounting to much more than spliffs, bevvy, and a little voice-coaching in the vagaries of Strummer-esque enunciation, but that’s more than enough to stoke the stoned lyricism of “Radio America.” The Libs have been touted by British hype-peddlers as “London’s answer to the Strokes,” and their loud, fast, and tuneful aesthetic shares something with that of the New York rockers. But the Brit-specific influences are the best thing about the Libertines’ sound, so the Strokes-y veneer on numbers such as “Vertigo” and “Death on the Stairs” seems beside the point. Still, Up the Bracket proves Doherty and Barât’s mettle as punk melodists. Here’s hoping that next time out, their songwriting will be just as deft but less sticky-fingered. —Todd Hitchcock