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Babyshambles grows up

Babyshambles - Shotter's Nation
3 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Nov. 12, 2007

Review by Tony Bonyata

As hard as it may be, let's set aside Pete Doherty's tumultuous relationships with both supermodel Kate Moss and hard drugs for the time being and judge the former Libertines' front man on the merits of his latest band Babyshambles' second full effort, Shotter's Nation.

With producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur) cleaning up much of the slop from their 2006 debut Down In Albion, Shotter's Nation comes off tighter and more focused than its predecessor. But while they've succeeded in creating a package that may have more commercial sheen, the highlights here - except for perhaps The Kinks-inspired UK single "Delivery" - just quite aren't up to Doherty's best work (i.e. The Libertines' 2002 Up The Bracket album and Babyshambles' brilliant "[Expletive] Forever" UK single).

Despite not having any other notable standout tracks there are still enough other interesting elements to be able to recommend this record. Along with Street's tighter production, Doherty's vocals are surprisingly coherent and self-controlled, while the guitar work from newest member Mick Withnell is a wonderful addition to the band's sound; although considering that Doherty has referred to him as "the finest ska guitarist in the UK" it's a shame that Withnell doesn't inject more than just a hint of ska into the arrangements. The album also digs in deeper than Babyshambles' previous effort, as they weave in a bit of The Doors' bluesy psychedelic dirge into "Crumb Begging Baghead" along with the smoky jazz swing of "There She Goes." While there's still a good amount of snarly punk here (as witnessed on the scrappy "You Talk," "Carry On Up The Morning" and the pop-kissed "Deft Left Hand"), they close the album with the beautiful acoustic ballad "Lost Art of Murder," where UK folk legend Bert Jansch accompanies Doherty on guitar magnificently.

While many may prefer the rougher-hued punk sounds from this London quartet, Doherty & Co have proven they might just be ready to grow up... possible with even with a bit of grace.

Watch Babyshambles' - "French Dog Blues" video

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