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Wednesday, March 26, 2003




Many rock bands want you to think they work and live outside normal society. London's Libertines are no different, but in their case it's as if they've never been in normal society in the first place. Last June, they cracked the British Top 40 with "What a Waster," a short, crass song that treats drug addiction as a poor financial planning.

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The Libertines look like a punk band, but they don't really play punk, nor hard rock in the classic sense. Stripped to their songwriting basics, they could pass for a Merseybeat revival group if it weren't for the saliva-spraying vocals of Peter Doherty and Carl Barat. The band's debut album, "Up the Bracket," produced with meticulous attention to a sludgy bottom and a brittle middle by former Clash member Mick Jones, doesn't set its sights on the partying masses who take up battle positions in front of the stage. With their sloppy guitar parts and loony-tunes lyrics, The Libertines play to the margins, where the skeptics lean against the wall trying not to crack up or betray interest.

It isn't altogether clear whom the butt of the joke is in a song like "Horrorshow," where Doherty seems to change his attitude with every chord. "Did you see the stylish kids in the riot?" he asks at the beginning of "Time for Heroes," a song that a lot of people take at face value, though in The Libertines' hands "heroes" very well could be sandwiches. But you know you've definitely been suckered into their weird and wonderful world when you start la-la-ing along with their accomplished harmonies, not knowing what the hell it is you're singing to and not caring because it's so much fun. God help us if they're, like, pederasts or, even worse, Libertarians.

Libertines: April 8 at 7 p.m., Nagoya Club Quattro (052) 264-8211; April 9 at 7 p.m., Shinsaibashi Club Quattro, Osaka (06) 6281-8181; April 10 at 7 p.m., Drum Logos, Fukuoka (Kyodo, [092] 714-0159); April 11 at 7 p.m., Club Metro, Kyoto (075) 752-4765; April 13 at 6 p.m. and April 14 at 7 p.m., Shinjuku Liquid Room, and April 15 at 7 p.m., Harajuku Astro Hall, Tokyo (Creativeman, [03] 5466-0777); April 16, 7 p.m., Junk Box, Sendai (Kyodo, [022] 296-8888); April 17, 7 p.m., Penny Lane 24, Sapporo (Imageland, [011] 271-1180). All tickets, 5,500 yen advance.

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