The result is an album that's incohesive, nowhere near as good as their debut - or even their shoddy self-titled second LP - and listening to it makes you feel as if a grubby-handed record exec is groping you in an inappropriate manner around the nether regions. Very dirty and very, very wrong. The songs can not be quibbled with. But these are the same songs we've adored and studied and heard a million times before. Anyone who doesn't own Up The Bracket already surely wouldn't want anything to do with this. The kind of faint-hearted folk who didn't fancy dipping their feet into the squalor and filth produced by the romantic rock-urchins back in 2002 aren't going to be leaping at the chance of rummaging through the screaming clatter of 'Mayday' or kitchen sink wallop of 'I Get Along' any more this time around. Are they?
The tracklisting will be the topic of a zillion pub discussions in years to come. Why no 'Vertigo' or 'Music When The Lights Go Out'? Why on earth is 'Tell The King' on it? Many a pork scratching will be munched debating the various merits of the songs chosen for this album, but there's no denying that pound for pound, riff for riff, you're getting your money's worth with Time For Heroes. You barely have time to breathe between the fresh-faced holler and Clash-lite stomp of 'Up The Bracket' and the breezy knees-up-Mother-Brown, wonky guitars of 'Don't Look Back Into The Sun'. 'What Katie Did' and 'What Became Of The Likely Lads' are sad depictions of what might have been if the drugs and showbiz circus hadn't gotten hold, displaying the band's ability to make mainstream pop hits with grit and bite. 'The Delaney' captures the electricity of their live act, sounding like seven songs squeezed into three minutes' worth of action. While 'Mayday' reeks of the sweat and blood that used to be tossed around Libs gigs like bottles of Evian, with its battle charge of slashing guitars and Lydon-esque screeching vocals an example of their punky earliest sessions. Yet somehow it doesn't seem to matter how many gorgeous nuggets they squeeze on this album, it still doesn't feel, well, right.
'Death On The Stairs' still has the best drum breakdown ever, and sounds like it may have actually been recorded while the band were being thrown down a staircase. 'Boys In The Band' is still a cheeky Cockney knees up, which nicks a funky Elastica bass line before bursting into an arm-swaying, leg-flaying chorus. But they don't fit together at the end of this album. There's always a niggle telling you to take out this CD, smash it and to stick on Up The Bracket and have the real deal. Perhaps the real problem is that there hasn't been enough time elapsed for any of us to sit back and consider these as 'hits'. The tunes are still so fresh and relevant that to look back on them with any nostalgia is a bizarre experience. It's like being forced into an episode of I Love 2002 and talking about the band as if they are some exotic and mysterious fancy, when in reality we all know they could be back together recording a third album next week if Pete pulled his socks up.
It's perhaps apt that the record should be released in the month when England's sports stars have failed in such spectacular fashion at the final hurdle. Much like the rugga boys and Lewis Hamilton, The Libertines were quintessential English heroes. Failures who aspired for greatness and flopped. Yet we love them even more for it. For the songs and the memories, this record deserves five stars. For the decidedly fishy purposes of this album and its complete lack of soul, it could equally deserve a measly one. We've been very boring and gone for something in the middle.