Saturday, 7 September 2013

Album review: BABYSHAMBLES - Sequel To The Prequel

Highlights: Fireman, Nothing Comes To Nothing, Maybeline, Picture Me In A Hospital, Minefield

Maybe not something you should say in polite company, but I admire Pete Doherty. No, not the image of him walking the short way from prison to rehab. Not his awful acting. And certainly not the rather drawn-out and misguided attempt at wasting himself. In fact, I couldn’t care less about any of that. I admire the blind, sloppy, instinctive force that is Doherty’s musical talent. Which, for me, peaked with the much maligned Down In Albion, Babyshambles’ 2005 debut. That glorious mess. That ridiculous onslaught of melodies and charisma. That stream of rock-n-roll consciousness. The true naughties classic. Sorry if you missed it.

Shotter’s Nation lost some of Doherty’s trademark spontaneity, but the songs were good. Then there was a low-key solo album that worked (“Broken Love Song” is brilliant), but barely. Sequel To The Prequel (which is the sort of title that should have probably been invented sooner) has Pete’s best songs since Down In Albion. However hard you try, you just don’t waste your talent completely. 

“Fireman” is a raw, punkish, catchy outburst in the vein of “Arbeit Macht Frei”. “Nothing Comes To Nothing” is the album’s single, and it’s everything a great Doherty single should be: it’s tuneful, it’s instantly memorable and it has that irresistible anthemic quality to it. A dream start. “Farmer’s Daughter” has a big sweeping chorus that you might have heard before. “Fall From Grace” is catchy and bouncy. “Maybeline” with its “Fuck Forever”-like guitar rhythm would have been rightfully considered a Libertines classic were it written ten years before. Now it’s a Babyshambles classic. The title track is an entertaining old-fashioned number. “Penguins” changes the mood halfway through in that sloppy and charming Pete Doherty way. “Picture Me In Hospital”, with its swinging violin line, is beautiful and slightly deranged. Finally, the closing 5-minute “Minefield” brings the whole thing to a glorious close – with a wailing guitar and one hell of an epic tune.  You will sing along during the very first listening.  

The Deluxe Edition doesn’t add much of note. The Velvet Underground’s “After Hours” sounds exactly the way you would expect it to sound if it were covered by Babyshambles and sung by Pete Doherty. Decent stuff, but these bonus tracks are bonus tracks for a reason. So overall, this is more like a high 8. But the guy has an edge. He is a bit like indie rock’s Brendan Behan. He might be a shit actor, but he is definitely a brilliant songwriter. Plus, he didn’t die at 27, which seems good enough at this point. A 9.


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