Carl Barât and the Jackals review – a cabaret of horns and jacked-up punk-pop

Scala, London
As fallback options go, the Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things frontman’s other band are remarkably ardent and bombastic

Carl Barât knows the value of a plan B. The longevity of the current Libertines reunion relies on Pete Doherty’s continued sobriety, so Barât would need the unreasoning optimism of a Lib Dem voter to expect the band’s reformation to survive this summer’s high-profile festival cash-ins and accompanying third album. Hence, the (relatively) sensible half of the Pete/Carl chaos dynamic is simultaneously building the Jackals, the band he formed by open audition last year.

As fallback options go, it’s remarkably ardent. The Jackals tout suave, jacked-up Clash pop dusted with wartime imagery, music hall harrumph and hints of the theatricality of Barât’s 2010 solo album. Live, they become a full-on cabaret. Joined by a blazing horn section, glamorous backing vocalists and Ed Harcourt on keys, they jumble the entire Jackals debut Let it Reign with Libertines favourites, solo tunes and hits by Carl’s post-Libs band Dirty Pretty Things. Those who just came for scrappy dashes through Death on the Stairs and I Get Along might be startled by the variety: while Summer in the Trenches could be Consider Yourself from Oliver! pumped with military-grade battle stimulants, We Want More dabbles in 80s freeway Americana, and solo acoustic polka The Ballad of Grimaldi sounds like it would have rattled many a Kit Kat Club table circa 1931.

He still sings of brotherhood in noble causes like a man mistaking punk rock for national service, but with the Jackals Barât has evolved his pubby narc-rock to embrace a down-at-heels largesse – as in the southern gothic March of the Idle, or Glory Days , a bawl-along shanty about losing a hedonistic friend to the slammer for crimes he can’t remember. By the end, the likes of Let it Reign and War of the Roses – in which he, quite majestically, swaps a dog for drugs – are billowing gospel country grandeur and Oasis bombast, and the Jackals look increasingly like plan AA.


Mark Beaumont

The GuardianTramp

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