Singles of the year: #54

54. For Lovers – Wolfman featuring Peter Doherty.

I saw The Libertines nearly three years ago at The Social. Despite only playing a thirty minute set, they were young and hungry and focussed and energised and incandescent and quite, quite fantastic – particularly that star-in-the-making singer with the pudding-bowl haircut. A couple of months later, their first single came out. It was OK, but not a patch on what I’d seen live. I loyally bought the next couple of singles, but quickly lost interest. Too straight-up “classic” rock & roll for my tastes, with even the rough edges sounding too orthodox, in a way that just didn’t appeal.

The ongoing Libertines soap-opera of the last couple of years – bust-ups, burglaries, jail sentences, smack-n-crack habits, missed shows, riots and recriminations – has alternately bored and depressed me, souring the memory of all that eager promise and raw talent. It reached some sort of nadir halfway through 2004, when the NME voted Pete Doherty – by now an emaciated, wasted, hopelessly addicted f**k-up of a man – as the “coolest person in rock”. Call me a clucking old fogey, but what sort of message does that kind of witless lionisation send out?

In the midst of all this, For Lovers therefore came as something of a revelation: an achingly tender ballad, full of longing and regret, which put me in mind of the sort of thing that Richard Ashcroft used to be capable of. It also reminded me, briefly, of the talent behind the f**k-up.

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