Babyshambles – Sequel to the Prequel

Most of you have forgotten (if you ever knew), but for a moment or two in the early ’00s, The Libertines were the toast of Britain. In 2003 the Libs were the post-Strokes band that the geniuses at the NME said was gonna “save rock ’n’ roll.” And Pete Doherty (along with co-vocalist aider-and-abettor Carl Barat) was this week’s savior. This was before Doherty’s much publicized dalliance/cocaine scandal with supermodel Kate Moss, numerous drug busts, DUIs, rehabs and jail stints – and a pummeling descent into rock ’n’ roll cliché territory from which Doherty has yet to emerge.

I was one of those folks who bought into the Libertines mystique, because, well, the Libertines’ debut Up The Bracket was simply a great album. The band had a punkish je ne sais quoi that was refreshing, and the songs flat out rocked. (The subsequent The Libertines was hit-or-miss, a portent of the so-so to downright awful material to come from Doherty.)

After the Libertines’ breakup, Doherty founded his own band, Babyshambles, which was pretty much an extension of the Libs’ modus operandi, albeit a less charming, less musically accomplished one. In the Libertines, Pete had been the Keith/Sid to Carl Barat’s Mick/Johnny. So the Doherty-piloted Babyshambles was more, uh, shambolic. Too shambolic, in fact.

So it’s been six years since the last Babyshambles album (2007’s pretty good Shotter’s Nation), and the few of you who even remember Doherty are probably wondering whether he’s still alive. Well, he’s back and better than ever – or something.

The first and foremost problem with Prequel is the vocals. It sounds as if Doherty’s cadre of ass-kissers propped him up in front of a microphone in hopes that he’d come to consciousness and mutter something comprehensible. Doherty is miles off key. This doesn’t sound chaotic, it just sounds shitty.

The lyrics don’t fare much better. Doherty, who apparently ranks himself among Oscar Wilde and Ray Davies as a wry chronicler of English life – in his opiated dreams, that is – comes off like the heroin-besotted Cockney Kook that he is. Songs like “Picture Me in the Hospital” only reinforce that this twit’s off his rocker.

Sequel to the Prequel has three keeper songs out of twelve, which is not such a good percentage. “Fireman,” “Nothing Comes to Nothing” and “Maybelline” are all moderately successful, post-millennial sendups of the Clash/Jam punk-pop (as opposed to pop punk) sound of ‘77. As long as Doherty stays within that template, things are OK. On most of Prequel’s tracks, however, Doherty misses the bull’s-eye. Hell, he misses the whole damned dartboard. Prequel is nothing more than the ambling, garbled and downright  boring mumblings of a doomed addict/rocker in his death throes. There’s nothing compelling or transcendent about this sort of spectacle.

Sequel to the Prequel