red lights


Self-destructive rock star's
second coming?

Babyshambles - Down in Albion
(Rough Trade)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 11, 2006

Review by Tony Bonyata

Led by former enfant terrible of the London punk band The Libertines, Pete Doherty's latest group effort, Babyshambles, takes flight from the spent ashes left by his previous band.

For their first full-length effort, Down In Albion, Doherty and co-songwriter/guitarist Patrick Walden have crafted a stout debut riddled with drugs, death, and rebellion - all subjects the lead singer either knows all too well firsthand or has come close enough to speak with tell-tale authority. With booze, coke, supermodel girlfriends and trips to rehab and prison fueling his inspiration, Down in Albion is at times sloppy and shambling, at others autobiographical and ugly, and infectious and near-brilliant at other moments. When Babyshambles is firing on all cylinders, as on the snappy pop and scruffy execution of "A'rebours," complete with flashes of the writing smarts of Ray Davies and Lennon / McCartney, the muscular ska-driven "Pipedown" and the great single "[Expletive] Forever," which unfortunately, due to its title, won't come within a ten-foot pole distance to the mainstream, they manage to soar to some of the heights that the vocalist reached on The Libertines' 2002 flawed masterpiece Up The Bracket. On the devilish opening track "La Belle Et La Bete," Doherty has brought supermodel girlfriend Kate Moss into the mix as co-vocalist. With a paper-thin delivery, Moss' voice surprisingly works in this song, however - not unlike the unpolished, yet ultimately adorable voice of The White Stripes' drummer Meg White.

A ska-flavor is injected into a few other numbers to mixed results. "Pentonville," featuring the rasta-vocalizations of The General (a friend Doherty met while doing time at Pentonville Prison), feels unfinished and rambles on too long, while "Sticks and Stones" is a bit of ska-pop that eventually swaggers and stumbles headfirst into a train wreck of colliding rhythms, conflicting harmonies and disjointed guitars - mixing the venom of punk rock with a noodling, free-form jam band mentality. "What Katy Did Next," on the other-hand, incorporates a light ska beat, which merrily skips its way into a near-perfect pop chorus. Whether blame for some of the pitfalls belong to former Clash guitarist Mick Jones, who produced the record, or the headstrung will of the band, a much tighter and punchier production throughout surely would have better reflected the intensity of this quartet.

Not unlike Doherty himself, Babyshambles is a stroppy yet lovable patchwork of unbridled UK punk attitude, early 60s British Invasion song-craft and modern BritPop wit, complete with the all the baggage of a self-destructive, bona-fide rock star set to implode.

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