Monday, 9 September 2013

Babyshambles - Sequel To The Prequel


The Libertines still represent a huge proportion of British indie rock. As for the two follow through projects, well let’s just say their combined discography is nothing on The Libertines. Dirty Pretty Things released one decent album in 2006 with Waterloo to Anywhere. Their sophomore effort signalled the dying generation of post-Libertines indie rock in Britain. Romance at Short Notice flopped and DPT split up soon after. They couldn’t compete with growing markets, nor could they maintain a career where the audience drop like flies for the latest electro rock release. For fans of Pete Doherty, there's a band called Babyshambles. They made their mark in 2005 with Down in Albion, a prudent release, but without the heart and soul of Doherty's past. Down in Albion had the garage rock structures of The Libertines, with punk aesthetics influenced by producer Mick Jones, and The Clash's fusion with reggae with the track "Pentonville". Doherty and co carried on with Shotter's Nation in 2008. It didn’t have the impact that Down in Albion delivered three years prior. It's too standard, too much rock and not enough personalised messages from the man of the hour. This made Grace / Wastelands Doherty's most celebrated work since The Libertines. He had matured in to something that earned him his title as a singer-songwriter. He wasn't far from great British poetry with tracks like "Last of the English Roses" and "Broken Love Song". Doherty was on the edge of folk rock stardom, except the sales weren’t there. A star in Doherty's position can't be playing solo sets and recording solo albums leaving the limelight and sinking back into the hole he came out of. Instead, he re-invented Babyshambles.

Sequel To The Prequel opens with "Fireman", a song that’s been knocking around since 1979. All jokes aside, "Fireman" sounds like a diluted Stiff Little Fingers B-side. The reason it's track one on Sequel To The Prequel is because they don't want fans to think they've gotten soft since 2008. Which is why Doherty carelessly sings: "Talk about North Korea, think about your career." Not exactly the matured singer-songwriter from 2009s Grace / Wastelands wouldn’t you say? Sequel To The Prequel bravely churns out extremely average Babyshambles songs. There's no hiding behind Doherty's song-writing laziness. He writes when he wants, he records when he wants; he goes to rehab when he wants. "Nothing Comes To Nothing" acts as the lead single, without a lead guitar to define it. Babyshambles sound dated and lost without a gritty opening riff and well-written chorus - Sequel To The Prequel doesn’t have any of it. "New Pair" splits the singles up, featuring Doherty’s layered vocal effect that made Grace / Wastelands what it is. But it only acts as a forgettable three minute blow over next to "Farmer's Daughter". It's not a cover of Crystal Bowersox's terrible song, but a predictable Babyshambles track. When it all comes together, Doherty and co sound absolutely terrible. High pitched extended dreary vocals have never worked for Doherty in the past, so it's no surprise that "Farmer's Daughter" receives a big 'oh'.

Babyshambles continue down a path of averageness with "Fall From Grace". This recording sounds pretty similar to any track from Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer Different Park. To emphasise this reference, Musgraves is a country artist. The americana sound has been floating around British artists for a few years now, with Mumford & Sons, Treetop Flyers, Jake Bugg, and Tom Odell adding this American twang to their Nashville recordings. The line was crossed when Mumford & Sons became the most popular band in America, Babyshambles are taking this way too far. Doherty's past has been considered some of the most British releases in popular music, this is just reciprocated garbage.

Down in Albion and Shotter's Nation are albums worth listening through from start to finish. It's a struggle to listen through Sequel To The Prequel without thinking out loud about Babyshambles' past. The acute instrumentals have been replaced by complete bluntness. Some critics have been praising this album for its re-discovery of abrasive sounds, well what have they been listening to? Michael Kiwanuka and Coldplay. Every track on Sequel To The Prequel is like a B-side to every track on Down in Albion. Nothing stands out on this album. "Maybelline" sounds like Razorlight covering the: "Baby, baby, baby," Justin Bieber. Vampire Weekend pulled it off with "Diane Young", Babyshambles are playing with fire, they’re driving a torched Saab.

"Dr.No" is the reggae track every Babyshambles album must include. It's becoming a gimmick and with this track, Doherty does little to convince otherwise. This would fit the opening titles for a Dr.No porn parody. It just doesn’t fit with Sequel To The Prequel. Why Doherty has to do this, we'll never know. He could release a reggae album and end up like Snoop Lion if he wants, but keep it out of an album, especially at a pivotal point. This part of  Sequel To The Prequel has to be the weakest out of any Doherty related albums. There's "Penguins", a delicate, but simple track. Doherty finally shows his soft side, but to no avail. "Picture Me In Hospital" also has the americana sound with its "Ring of Fire" sounding string work. Poor, very poor.

I've been a supporter and listener of Doherty's related music projects for many years. It's not often I'm critical of his work, as he usually pulls of some very good music. The Libertines' albums are astonishing even to this day, the previous two Babyshambles' albums are good, but not great; and then his solo material completely changed everything and pushed him to become a developed artist. What we have here is a delayed album that should have been released in 2010 instead of 2013. Sequel To The Prequel has been on the cards for many years, but Babyshambles have not. If you take Doherty out of the equation, then Babyshambles mean absolutely nothing. The members of Babyshambles are completely irrelevant when sided with the song-writing celebrity that is Pete Doherty. There's no point in lying to ourselves about this album, it's bad. It's a poor Babyshambles album and the worst music Doherty has released, ever. Indie rock as a genre is dead in Britain, it's like listening to cassette tapes. This album is dated, uninspiring, slow, and straight up cheap.
~Eddie

4.5

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