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Babyshambles “Sequel to the Prequel”
If you’re looking for the reason bands like Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chief, and Foals exist, look no further than Pete Doherty’s tenure as the drug-ridden lead vocalist of The Libertines. Their 2002 debut “Up the Bracket” received rave reviews and is often considered one of the greatest albums of the 21st century, and for good reason. Sure, it was a part of the now mocked “garage rock revival” era of the early 21st century, but it also stood out as having a certain swagger, catchiness, and level of experimentation that wasn’t really reached by any of the other bands who took part in this music scene. You could credit this to The Clash’s Mick Jones because he produced the thing, but you could also credit Pete Doherty’s honest and dark lyrics, as well as his charisma.
Well in 2004, the two frontmen of The Libertines, Doherty and Carl Barât, split up the band, mostly due to Doherty’s habitual use of heroin and crack cocaine. At this point, Doherty made his side project, Babyshambles, his main project, and they released the debut album “Down in Albion” in 2005, followed by “Shotter’s Nation” in 2007, both of which received good reviews. Doherty proved that even in the midst of tabloid related controversies, jail time, rehab facilities, and fatherhood, he was capable of writing and recording great music. But it’s been six years since Babyshambles last released an album, and Doherty’s been in and out of jail as recently as 2011. Is he finally clean? Maybe! Either way, it’s “Sequel to the Prequel” is a pretty good sign of health and stability in Doherty’s life.
One main complaint of Pete’s new project is that it sounds a bit too much like The Libertines to be interesting, and I see the comparison. I mean, the guy was in The Libertines for seven years (including a short 2010 reunion), so his new stuff is bound to sound like his old stuff. But there are a few significant differences. While Libertines had more of a punk edge, Babyshambles deals more with the softer side of indie rock, garage rock, post-punk, and other throwbacks. For example, the eponymous track is an obvious tribute to the ’50s rockabillies, with its familiar sounding chord progression and simplistic guitar solos, while the opening track “Fireman” sounds like it could have been used on “Up the Bracket.”
If you enjoy The Libertines, then you could really like this album or you could really hate it. Sometimes Doherty sounds a little too much like Joe Strummer for anyone to even call his music original. The album even comes complete with a dub-reggae track. But both Doherty projects have always reminded me of The Clash, which makes sense since all of Doherty’s projects were produced by Mick Jones. So is “Sequel to the Prequel” a redemption of hope for the formerly tragic musician, or is it too derivative to even be enjoyable? You decide. Personally, I thought the album was pretty good. It really is good to hear that Pete Doherty is at least attempting to get clean (I think) and can still record interesting music. I hate throwback records as much as the next guy, but Doherty is still extremely charismatic and capable of writing catchy music that covers a whole punk spectrum, which saves “Sequel to the Prequel” from being a total bust.
SCORE – 7.0
FAVORITE TRACKS – Fireman, Fall From Grace, Maybelline, Sequel to the Prequel, Dr. No, Penguins, Seven Shades