Release Date: Sep 2, 2013
Record label: Parlophone
Hand Pete Doherty the rulebook and he’d probably use it as roll-up paper. Doggedly following his own muse, this third Babyshambles picks up from where 2007’s Shotter’s Nation left off, and it seems as though he’s finally managed to set the group apart from The Libertines. Opener Fireman sounds like an old B-side from Down In Albion days, at first suggesting that the only thing to have matured about Babyshambles is Doherty’s vocals.
What can you say about Pete Doherty that has not already been said? There is rarely a dull moment in the life of Babyshambles’ frontman, but unfortunately his drug-fueled antics have always detracted from his talent as a musician. While Doherty is certainly not the first artist to have fallen foul of addiction, his media profile has made it seemingly impossible for many to recognise that he is a very gifted songwriter. As is usually the way, there have been many up and downs for Doherty in the six years since Babyshambles released their excellent second album, Shotter’s Nation, including the death of his friend Amy Winehouse, a brief reformation of The Libertines and his first solo album.
Peter Doherty will always be a man whose talent is overlooked because of stories about heroin falling out of his pocket at a bail hearing, or pictures emerging of him allegedly making a cat smoke crack. Behave like a lunatic and people tend to lose sight of your positive attributes.But one of the 34-year-old’s charms has always been how open his lyrics are about his own trials and tribulations. From the wide-eyed maniac yelping “horse is brown” on The Libertines’ first album to the “fuck forever” philosophy on Babyshambles’ 2005 debut ‘Down In Albion’, they’ve always been a way to keep tabs on the guy.
Review Summary: Another reboot from Doherty & Co. Can he finally recapture those first flourishes?To use drug user/dealer parlance, Pete Doherty is ‘on tick’ with his fans. Once the loveable rogue escapades gave way to pathetic arrests and public embarrassments, Doherty very quickly slid from the Best of the Year lists to people’s death sweepstakes.All of that work the Libertines did for British guitar music (for better or worse) essentially came undone with each new incident.
Fame, Van Morrison once remarked, was just a figment of everyone else’s imagination. Perhaps Pete Doherty and his Babyshambles can empathise. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s been a case of diminishing returns for a fair old while now – just as anybody born after 1996 could reasonably wonder why, given their latter-day guise, there used to be so much of a fuss surrounding Oasis, someone coming of age after the mid 00s may be unsure as to the actual, tangible reasons for ever giving a hoot about Doherty’s musical output.
Eight years on from their 2005 debut and despite Pete Doherty's talent for distraction, Babyshambles have matured, musically at least, into a proper band. Rich in rueful words, gorgeous melodies and surprising ambition, Sequel to the Prequel is an album torn between bassist Drew McConnell's newfound appreciation of life (following a bike accident in 2011) and Doherty's frustrating need to curtail it, as documented in the feverish ska song Dr No. Three albums in, there is no excuse for his sloppy mumbling on Fireman and on the first single, Nothing Comes to Nothing, especially when the whimsical music hall of the title track is accorded such focus and effortless charm.
“So what's the use between death and glory? I can't tell between death and glory.” This was the Babyshambles of 2005. Lead by a frontman who was arrested four times that year, dating the world’s most famous supermodel and still reeling from the demise of The Libertines. Pete Doherty seemed destined to bow out from his life of tabloid notoriety before hitting 30 years old.
Sloppiness in music can create excitement and thrills. There’s a certain danger in not knowing what will happen next, a sense of democratic improvisatory capabilities—not the elite improvisations of confident jazz masters, but the freedom brought on by not knowing where you’re going or how to get there. But with sloppiness, it’s very easy to end up with too much of a good thing.
Listen, no one is more surprised about this than me, but this record is actually quite good. No, I'm serious. No one finds Pete (yes, I know he likes to be referred to as Peter now, I do it just to annoy him) Doherty more unbearable than me. I hated Babyshambles' first album, I was indifferent to their second, and god, don't even get me started on his solo stuff.
If ‘Sequel To The Prequel’ were a trial, and based on Pete Doherty’s track record there’s still every chance it could yet be, you’d imagine it’d be hard to find 12 good men and true to sit in impartial judgement upon it. Although, by way of appeasement to those who think he should be strung up by his thumbs, it would seem that it is the least Doherty-centric Babyshambles album to date. The suggestion being that the driving force behind its creation was bassist Drew McConnell.