Monday, November 15, 2004

Get The Infamous French Sessions!

Here they are:

1. Narcissist
2. Half-cocked Boy
3. Ha Ha Wall
4. Through The Looking Glass

If you're not sure what the French Sessions are, here is the fascinating tale of their creation, cut and pasted from (not trying to steal content here, but some of the articles posted there currently have an Angelfire logo in the background which makes them unreadable):

While the raw rock of their first album was just being approved on both sides of the Channel, the Libertines from London dashed to Nantes to record a 7" of unreleased tracks, at the back of a garage. Story of those 3 days.

5th January

Five guys in the van. Exhausted. It is 9pm in Nantes, the Libertines have just arrived after a 20-hours drive. The door of the van slides. On the floor, there is a jumble of whisky bottles, beers and cigarette butts. In the boot, there are a big travelling bag and a few guitars. Stephane Moreau and Nicolas Bourigault, the Dialektik Records agitators, a punk-rock label from Nantes, have taken turns to drive. Confirming their status of a chaotic and unpredictable band, the quartet has become a duet: only Carl Barât and Pete Doherty, the two singer-guitarists pillars have travelled. There is also Alan Wiss who will mainly be in charge of the production.
The car stops in front of a house in the suburbs: "This is the Garage Hermetique". They still have to go to the backyard, enter into a freezing shed, go through 3 or 4 doors in order to reach the place that the Libertines chose to record 3 or 4 new songs.
A few weeks before, Stephane Moreau and Nico Bourigault had dashed to Angers to be at the concert of ex-Clash Mick Jones' favourites, just to see if the album Up the Bracket was as good on stage. "Everything happened in 10 minutes. We saw the gig and we thought that we had to talk to them", Stephane says.
In the corner of the bar, the two Dialektik hit it off with Pete. " They had a real interest in our music, Pete remembers. We understood each other. So I thought, "OK, why not do something with them?" I woke up the manager to tell her that some guys were here and that they wanted to make a record with us. She said: "Fuck off!" So I decided alone." Stephane exults. "We brought them back without negotiating anything, without seeing a single guy from their English label, without any contract. Really wild." Stephane exaggerates. The Libertines had all the same a few requirements – about the sound: vintage amps, Ampeg and Vox, and an electronic organ as well.
Apart from that, the Formule 1 hotel and kebabs do not put them off. Pete, who has had too many sleepless nights, quickly goes to bed. For Alan and Carl, an evening in a pub is imperative, with Guinness and acoustic guitar. "I think we are going to do a good job, whispers Alan, leaving. See you tomorrow."

6th January

Nicolas, the sound engineer, with a waxen complexion and greasy hair, looks as if he has not left his garage since its opening, 8 years ago. He looks dubiously at the studio. Carl, Alan and Pete have been inside for more than 2 hours. Nico: "They warm themselves, they practise together." Pete goes out, with a smile on his chubby face. "It is a bit of a chaos. But it is ideal to create."
Change of atmosphere. On the other side of the door, the Libertines's manager demands the band to go back to London the day after. Reason: they can't miss their first interview with the national daily The Guardian.
In the studio, the adjustments progress. Pete and Carl stir, like onstage, unplugging some cables with their movements. The sound engineer is thundering forth. His hard disk saturates. It doesn't matter: the first take with bass, drums and guitar is done. The skeleton of the song is drawn. Alan, a strange compromise between Mick Jagger and Brian Jones, sits near the console: "The first and next to last ones are the best ones." Carl leaves quietly the room, settles down in front of the games console in the other room and settles the Guardian problem. The English journalist will be in Nantes the day after. "The manager is a bit fascist, he jokes. She tends to want to control everything."
Back in the studio. "If you get tired/Just hanging around..." Pete records the first voice take. He never leaves a bronze clothed notebook, which is at the same time the journal and songwriting notebook of the Libertines. "I jot down all my good ideas and my dreams in the morning. Sometimes I draw. To forget the lovely thing is such a horrible feeling." The song takes shape. When he sings, Pete seems to connect himself to another world. A synthesis between rock attitude and bliss. He is a meddler: he then sits behind the electric organ, whistles on the break of the song, giving a new distance and depth. "It sounds like The Doors", Alan enthuses. Pete finishes what is certainly the best voice take of the day and, by coincidence, Carl, who had disappeared for nearly 2 hours, goes into the studio, ready to record the second guitar. Between Pete and Carl, there is more a coincidence than an agreement, as if each moment spent to play together was a rediscovery.
End of the day. There remains the passage with both voices. Tambourines and maracas, and the atmosphere becomes psychedelic... Imperceptibly, something has just happened. The first song, "Silent Cope", only just finished, Pete begins another song. Alone on the sofa, he plays acoustic, catches all the attention. A talented songwriter, his tense voice sings a form of powerlessness, a perdition. Then he closes his eyes and lies down on the sofa. "We are supposed to make a ballade a bit quiet. It's a good sign if I am falling asleep." The evening slowly stretches out. Like with the first song, the first take of the second song takes the shape of an endless jam session. Carl: "Even if we are prisoners of an industry, of loads of constraints, nobody can steal us our pleasure to play. Even if the stage is small."

7th January

Carl remains wrapped up in his dark overcoat. Behind him, through the window, the countryside is still frozen. Pete, swathed in a shawl, dashes through the studio. Suddenly, a few bass notes shake the building. Like a well-known tune. "You Really Got Me" of The Kinks. Is it about recording a cover version? After all, Alan carted around some vinyls yesterday: The Doors, Everly Brothers, The Who, Elvis... Carl gives an answer when he starts singing: "Nice to be/Dorian Gray/Just for a day/Narcissist..." The recording of the most incisive song of the session has just begun. Until then, we had not really paid attention to Carl's voice. It was a mistake. Deep and low-pitched, it spreads out Pete's lyrics. Alan nevertheless tries to push it further: "Sing it like Elvis" – "That's what I thought I was doing!" Later, on his own, Pete works on the last song. A second ballade. It will be a well-balanced 7", for March, 2 rather mellow songs and 2 angry songs. Something in the image of the band, according to Pete. "We like to say that our influences are divided between the melody, the melancholy of Django Reinhardt and the rhythmic aggressiveness of the Stooges."
The Libertines only work instinctively. Which is confirmed this very evening, after Pete witnessed a fight in a bar: "The guy felt he was trapped. That's why he fought. He felt like a rabbit in the headlights." "Like a rabbit in the headlights": Pete hums this chorus. And notes it down in his notebook. For the future.

translation by Helene Turin