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"Sequel To The Prequel"

6.5/10
Babyshambles – Sequel To The Prequel
03 September 2013, 10:00 Written by Matt Tomiak
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Fame, Van Morrison once remarked, was just a figment of everyone else’s imagination. Perhaps Pete Doherty and his Babyshambles can empathise. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s been a case of diminishing returns for a fair old while now – just as anybody born after 1996 could reasonably wonder why, given their latter-day guise, there used to be so much of a fuss surrounding Oasis, someone coming of age after the mid 00s may be unsure as to the actual, tangible reasons for ever giving a hoot about Doherty’s musical output.

Fans of a certain age can recall the exuberant promise of Definitely Maybe swiftly giving way to the Gallagher brothers’ joyless cycle of boorish yob-rock – and similarly, there’s been little material penned by Doherty that’s truly captured hearts and minds in the decade since the grubby dissolution of The Libertines. A one-time reliable source of tabloid gossip-column fodder, Doherty seemed to have fallen off the pop cultural radar some time after 2007′s Shotter’s Nation.

It might be pushing it to describe Sequel To The Prequel as a ‘make or break’ record given all that has already gone before it, but there does seem to be something hanging on Babyshambles’ third studio album, their first in 6 years. At its core, it’s a risk-averse collection, musically rooted firmly in the past. In a manner not dissimilar to former Libertine Carl Barat’s Dirty Pretty Things project, there are no fashionable collaborations with hip young Grime stars, no stylistic left-turns, nothing particularly complicated or adventurous – but maybe at this juncture that’s exactly what was required.

Veteran Blur/Smiths producer Stephen Street has applied a luscious Britpop sheen to these eleven tracks, adding gloss to an already coherent foundation. It may be surprising to discover a record as focused as this one, given Doherty’s past, yet Sequel To The Prequel is a lean, streamlined beast. Indeed, the grab-bag of influences will be highly familiar to anyone with more than a passing interest in Pete’s career to date. There’s Buzzcocks-informed, punchy power pop (‘Fireman’), breezy Chas and Dave pub-rock oomph (the title track), reasonably convincing Joe Strummer impressions (‘Doctor No’) and stuff that sounds like the bleeding Longpigs (‘Farmers’ Daughter.’)

Lyrically, Sequel To The Prequel doesn’t feel embittered or resentful, although the wistful, country-tinged ‘Fall From Grace’ (‘can we go some place where they know my face?’) can be read as nostalgic for The Lib’s glory days, and ‘Picture Me In A Hospital’ as an anthem of defiance.

Nothing to rival ‘Time For Heroes’, then, but this as accessible, and as listenable, as anyone may have hoped for.

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