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Romance At Short Notice

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Album Review

For most of Romance at Short Notice, Carl Barat and the rest of Dirty Pretty Things seem determined to move as far past the lingering ghosts of the Libertines and their debut album, Waterloo to Anywhere, as possible. Romance at Short Notice isn't just much more polished than the band's scrappy debut, it's also much more eclectic — to a fault. The album crashes in on "Buzzards and Crows," a brooding manifesto against "a scene self-obsessed" embellished with carnivalesque organs, a flat-lining heart monitor, and what sounds like an angry mob; it's followed by "Hippy's Son," where Barat tears down any leftover traces of '60s peace and love with snarling invective and guitars. Then the band takes an abrupt left turn into winsome, jangly pop with "Plastic Hearts," and Romance at Short Notice never quite regains its momentum. It's admirable that Barat and crew want to explore as many approaches as possible, and just as admirable that Barat shares the singing and writing duties with bandmates Anthony Rossamundo and Didz Hammond (whose delicate ballad "The North" is a highlight), but this doesn't give Romance at Short Notice much cohesion. From song to song, Dirty Pretty Things jerk their listeners from one mood and sound to another, never quite finding a thread to tie it all together. Despite the album's lack of focus, the majority of Romance at Short Notice's songs are good in their own right. A few of them even achieve the progression that the band tries so hard for: "Kicks or Consumption" and "Best Face"'s punk-funk put a finer point on the fury that ignited the album; "Faultlines" manages to be pretty and dissonant at the same time; and "Truth Begins" touches on the anthemic side of Barat's work with the Libertines without rehashing it entirely. Romance at Short Notice's only true stumble is, unfortunately, one of its singles: "Tired of England" sounds like Paul Weller backed by the Smiths, but its lyrics about a utopian London have just a fraction of the wit and social commentary that such a would-be collaboration implies, and considering the more critical tone of some of the album's other songs, it feels out of place. Then again, so many of Romance at Short Notice songs seem disconnected from each other that perhaps this shouldn't be a surprise. Dirty Pretty Things move their music forward with this album, but they've sacrificed their clarity to achieve that.


Formed: 2004 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

After the Libertines broke up in fall 2004, singer/songwriter and guitarist Carl Barat began work on his next musical project. Signing to the U.K. label Vertigo almost immediately after the band dissolved, Barat worked on songs on his own and eventually recruited his former bandmate Gary Powell as the drummer for his new group. He also brought in Anthony Rossomando -- who had been Pete Doherty's replacement in the Libertines when Doherty was arrested in summer 2004 -- as second guitarist. Bassist...
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Romance At Short Notice, Dirty Pretty Things
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