For any other band, a six-year gap between albums would feel like negligence. For Babyshambles, it just feels like par for the course. This is partly because, in fact, it kind of feels like they haven’t been away nearly that long, thanks to frontman Pete Doherty’s frequent media escapades, and the bittersweet Libertines reunion at Reading and Leeds a few years ago.
Arriving onstage 90 minutes late for their album launch at London’s Brixton Jamm didn’t help matters much, either. But Babyshambles will always be a band on which the fans will never give up, and on which everybody else did ages ago. That said, their third album Sequel to the Prequel deserves more than a cursory listen. After the shoddy but occasionally brilliant Albion and the cleaner, but more anodyne Shotter’s Nation it seems like the band have finally found their niche.
First single ‘Nothing Ever Comes to Nothing’ is classic Doherty-swoon for an unnamed lover without whom ‘nothing ever comes to nothing’ over crackling four-chord guitar, whilst ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ has a chorus that showcases the power and evocativeness that can come from a voice which has always sounded like it’s been pissed up and thrown in a garbage chute.
Producer Stephen Street came back into the studio with them for this one, but whilst their previous album felt underwhelming Sequel, in its being so understated, hits the marks that only Babyshambles can hit. The much-discussed line ‘We could see monkeys, we could see snakes, we could see penguins, penguins are great’ in ‘Penguins’ highlights Doherty’s soft side and his under-appreciated knack for making the banal seem beautiful.
As the album turns darker right at the end with ‘Picture Me in a Hospital’, about bassist Drew McConnell’s brush with death after being hit by a car earlier in the year, it’s clear that this is a band that knows all about redemption, and really feels like it’s working to quell its demons. But this is Babyshambles, so those demons never quite fade away, and the album is a network of ghosts and shades, half-adventures and quiescent moods. For the fans, it’s all they’ll ever need. For everyone else, it’s another album from a band they never expected to get this far. Commendation for that, at least, is well deserved.
Image Credit: Brocco