thu 27/07/2017

CD: Babyshambles - Sequel to the Prequel | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Babyshambles - Sequel to the Prequel

CD: Babyshambles - Sequel to the Prequel

Can Pete Doherty cast off his pantomime reputation?

Stripped of any preconceptions this record comes across as an energetic series of musings from a sad and tuneful songsmith
Cover art by Damian Hirst is probably the least interesting thing here

There are few duller subjects in popular music than the relationship between Pete Doherty and drugs. I’d like therefore to be able to tell you that I have avoided all such references in this review. The truth is, however, I can’t: from the first slur to the last jangled guitar this still sounds like the work of a man who prefers his consciousness chemically altered. Yet, if Doherty's experimentation is unlikely to ever unlock the doors of perception, on this occasion his mindset is, thankfully, more lightly melancholy than those previous occasions when it was simply depressing and incoherent.

On opener "Fireman" the band –  this is very much a team effort –  offer their first take on the Libertines’ old formula of deceptively sloppy guitars and burbling bass adorned with bright melody and gutter vocals. There's variety here too. The album moves onto a lovely elegiac piece of Britpop (“Fall from Grace”), a Kinks pastiche (“Sequel to the Prequel”) and even a little dub reggae (“Dr No”). It's all rather appealingly done, with a lightness of touch. In fact, "Picture Me in a Hospital" may be the most satisfying song Doherty has yet written.

The best way to listen to Sequel to the Prequel is without any thought to the backstory. Indie rock is no longer particularly in vogue and much of the tabloid interest in Doherty has died down. Stripped of any preconceptions this record comes across as an energetic series of musings from a sad and tuneful songsmith ably assisted by a thoughtful and efficient band. That, however, may be to undervalue their contribution. Not only do they bring musical discipline, their own writing gives the record variety and depth.

Of course, one imagines that much of the reaction to the album will speculate over what's causing the wooziness in Doherty’s vocals or whether the song “Penguins,” about a trip to the zoo, is his reimagining of Lou Reed’s ode to addiciton, “Perfect Day”. Really though, this album deserves to remind us, regardless of all the tragedy, how enjoyable Doherty and friends can actually be.

Overleaf: Watch the video for recent Babyshambles single "Nothing Comes to Nothing"

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