At first glance, he looks like a bit of a Herbert.
It's hard to say why the cover of the solo debut from Carl Barât – hair slicked back, wifebeater vest, pointing a camera at us like it's a clichéd MySpace mirror shot – is so hilarious: it just is. But it's also a visual allegory for the record itself, right down to the skinny model posed irrelevantly out of focus and facing out of shot. She doesn't matter: forget that the climactic song is called "Ode to a Girl"; this one's all about him.
"Self-disgust is self-obsession," as someone far cleverer than Barât or I once wrote, and Carl Barât is an album of self-hatred, and vanity, and self-hatred for being so vain.
On the anti-romantic "Carve My Name" he takes a pitiless look at his erstwhile bachelor lifestyle ("I mark my kills with scratches on the bedpost..."), while "Je Regrette, Je Regrette" features his funniest tirade of insults since the Libertines' "What a Waster", but this time they're turned inwards: "I'm a wretch, I'm a wretch/ A tosser at a stretch..."
Sonically there's something strangely half-finished, which was understandable on the second Libs album, but he's had all the time in the world to make this one, so it must be an aesthetic decision, actively taken. "She's Something", for instance, is Spectoresque but lo-fi in execution, less a wall of sound, more a picket fence. "Shadows Fall" makes a stab at sombre Americana à la Lambchop, but drags badly.
It's an album which has its moments, notably the Brecht/Weill-isms of "The Magus" (highly reminiscent of the Dresden Dolls) and the sinister "The Fall". But, if his career isn't to follow the parabola of the circumflex in his surname, one hopes he's saving his best for the third Libertines album.