Thursday, December 01, 2005

catch-up: Babyshambles

Babyshambles, Down In Albion - while not quite Third/Sister Lovers, Babyshambles' debut is a portrait of a band so bruised it's surprise they kept it together long enough to record even this. A mess of an album, this isn't for anyone who wasn't enamored of the Libertines when they first emerged; at an hour, it more than stretches patience. Listen to Up The Bracket again, noticing the confidence and verve with which the band tightly barrels through their songs, making nary a misstep; then listen to this, a shambolic array of songs in various levels of arrangement which frequently begin with someonen quietly messing around on an amp, or even less. The arrangements seem to have been decided upon just before recording, with no rehearsal; one fears that Pete Doherty has been surrounded by sycophants who pander to his conceit of being another blinding troubling genius whose decisions must never be challenged.

Though it's messy, Down In Albion is a fascinating listen for fans: Doherty constantly trashes the legacy (such as it is) of the Libertines in the lyrics. "Don't look back into the motherfucking sun," he proclaims, twisting the name of their well-regarded comeback single; there's also "What Katie Did Next," the unauthorized sequel to the Libertines song, and "Up The Morning," a not-so-subtle shot back at their first album title. Opener "La Belle Et La Bete" has Doherty singing about getting coked-up with an affectingly off-key, frail Kate Moss backing him; it's both vulnerable and brash, and it's fascinating. It's followed by "Fuck Forever," one of the few moments when the whole band gets it together and throws out a growling anthem. The album comes together sporadically from that point onwards, and fans should find a lot of interest. Now it's Carl Barat's turn to fire back.


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