Dirty Pretty Things, Astoria, London

Astoria, London

Ever since the Libertines split in 2004, Carl Barât has been regarded as the more responsible of their two co-vocalists. Admittedly, the bar has been set pretty low - in recent weeks, all he has needed to do to be the voice of reason has been to abstain from appearing on YouTube with Amy Winehouse talking gibberish to baby mice.

Yet the differences are more profound. As Pete Doherty lurches from fiasco to disaster, Dirty Pretty Things are unveiling their second album, Romance at Short Notice, and, as tonight's gig makes clear, are very much a cohesive unit. Second guitarist Anthony Rossomando and bassist Didz Hammond are increasingly to the fore and, in stark contrast to early gigs, Libertines songs are notable only by their absence.

The new album apes its predecessor, Waterloo to Anywhere, in containing two or three great songs and a lot of filler, but when DPT are good, they are fantastic. The Clash have always been a major Barât touchstone, but imminent single Tired of England - all staccato urgency and an infectious chorus - channels the Jam magnificently. Plastic Hearts is equally thrilling, Rossamondo standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Barât for the call-and-response chorus routine that was Doherty's domain for so long.

Not everything is so inspired. The set flags at times, and new track Hippy Son is truly horrible. Yet DPT have palpably developed into a sharp, savvy gang, a "proper band". You suspect that, even if he gets his act together, there is no way back into Barât's musical life for Doherty.

· At Wireless festival, London, on July 4. Details: O2wirelessfestival.co.uk/tickets


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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