Album Review Babyshambles – Sequel To The Prequel

A definite step in a positive direction.

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. Who presumably then deserves the credit for getting Doherty clear-headed enough to perform.

Because it’s been six years since the last Babyshambles record and four years since Doherty’s last solo record, and while he’s continued to appear in the limelight for reasons both fair (the reformation of The Libertines; his debut acting role) and foul (prison; rehab; his debut acting role), there’s been a growing sense of his musical career grinding to a halt.

‘Sequel To The Prequel’ offers the suggestion that might be premature. On ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ Doherty lays into the chorus with a voice most thought had long since wasted away, turning it into something soaringly anthemic. The more wistful moments, ‘Fall From Grace’ and ‘Picture Me In A Hospital’, are hard to view as anything other the latest in a long line of mea culpas from their wayward frontman, but they’re charming, melodic and imparted with enough lyrical wit to land the right side up.

In some ways the most successful thing the band, in conjunction with producer Stephen Street, have done is chart a path which maintains enough of the ramshackle edge to keep things exciting, while not falling into the trap of sounding like some guys stumbling around a studio occasionally picking up a guitar by the wrong end.

The worst bits are those which are a touch less, for want of a better word, professional. While it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment of ‘Penguins’ (penguins are, indeed, great), as a song it is kind of slight, the vaudevillian musical-hall waltz of ‘Sequel To The Prequel’ comes over as novelty, and the attempted ska of ‘Dr. No’ just energetically skanks towards being a bad idea.

But, in the grand scheme of things, Sequel To The Prequel is a definite step in a positive direction. You’d be brave to categorise it as a new dawn, but it has enough about it to suggest the sun may not have yet set on Pete Doherty: musician.