If Simon Schama ever gets around to making The History of British Pop, he could do worse than call on The Libertines for period battle scenes from the Rock Wars. Everything here's a re-enactment, a reconstruction. You pick a year – 1964 (Mod), 1979 (Mod Revival), 1993 (New Wave of New Wave), 1995 (Britpop) – and these are the boys for the job.
Geordie-born, hamster-cheeked Pete Doherty looks like the son of Rodney Bewes playing Julian Casablancas in the yet-to-be-made Someday: The Story of the Strokes. Sidekick Carl Barat wears a red guardsman's jacket of the kind last publicly sported by Menswear. (In case you missed the point, the merchandise has Mod targets on.)
Roughly the 13th inheritors this year of the NME's ludicrous weekly "Your New Favourite Band" mantle (The Parkinsons? So last week! Black Rebel Motorcycle Club? So week before!), The Libertines haven't yet managed to ride the hype rocket to stardom – they're still playing sweatholes like York's Fibbers.
Getting your clothes and vinyl from charity shops is one thing. Getting your ideas is another. Every Libertines song sounds like either The Jam's "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" or The Smiths' "This Charming Man". To their credit, of all the current crop of east London guitar bands, The Libertines are the least likely to pretend they're from a trailer park outside Detroit and complain that their "womaown" has done them wrong. They're as English as Mike Reid (one wears an Eng-er-land T-shirt), and it's good to hear words like "divvy" in a pop context.
They're harmless knockabout fun and Doherty and Barat do a nice bit of Thunders/Johansen (or, if you prefer, Rossi/Parfitt) back-to-back microphone sharing. But where are they taking us? Haven't we been here before? Mum, are we there yet?