Timing, they said, is everything. And what timing Carl Barat has. Barely has the dust settled on the incendiary Libertines reunion shows and he unveils a solo offering, which does more to distance him from that band than anything he's tried so far.
Where Dirty Pretty Things struggled to make a mark over two records, by the aptly titled 'Carve My Name' - track four - Barat has stamped his authority on a set of songs undeniably his own and undeniably worthy of praise.
His ability to create songs that speak so clearly to the listener, while at the same time revelling in a alluring sense of artisan life quite distant from reality is most clear on the Parisian-tinged but distinctively English romance of Je Regrette Je Regrette and instant classic 'Run With The Boys.' This is a record of love lost, but told by a man with a virile, beating heart.
Yes, of course there are elements of the song writing magic that as a Libertine enabled Barat to define an era of British music, but even where it is at its most prominent, tracks like 'So long, my lover' demonstrate how far Barat has come as a songwriter since parting ways with Pete Doherty. The melodies and poetry are still there, but somehow they feel less tense, flowing with ease and making for a far more polished sound.
There may be little of the raw, edgy emotion that dominated his previous two bands and the guitars are definitely more softly spoken, but that shouldn't be held against the record. It isn't a Libertines record, and it doesn't try to be.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this record is how the songs have taken on a story like quality - the almost spoken-word 'The Fall' - a tale of romance, torture and portrayed with all the pomp and grandeur of a Sharpe omnibus is a perfect case in point. The fact it was co-written by the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon does indeed illustrate the direction of travel Barat's song writing is moving in.
A bold piece of work, Barat has avoided the solo record pitfalls and produced a distinct record that absolutely vindicates his determination as an artist to move forward. It may not please all his existing fans, but looks sure to win him a great deal of new admirers.