The Libertines constantly teeter on the edge of collapse. That’s what makes them so appealing.

The last two years have been a "Behind the Music" episode on fast-forward for the English punk band, as the volatile relationship between singer-guitarists Peter Dougherty and Carl Barat (not to mention Dougherty’s struggles with addiction, violence and the law) threaten to send them down a Sex Pistols-style path toward implosion. Like the Pistols, the Libertines infuse their music with the desperate energy of a group that knows its time is short. And on its self-titled second album, the band and producer Mick Jones (formerly of the Clash) strive frantically to capture that fleeting magic between fights and overdoses.

The sloppiness becomes grating on several tracks, such as "Don’t Be Shy" and "The Ha Ha Wall." But when the pair’s slurred emotional outpourings connect with the frenzy of "Can’t Stand Me Now" and "What Became of the Likely Lads," the results are as stirring as they are sad.

Grade: B-

© 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Libertines’ self-titled album is currently available.