Review: Babyshambles, Sequel to the Prequel

Remember when we all used to hang out at Filthy McNasty’s and watch Pete make drinks and Carl scribe lyrics that would probably end up as something on Up the Bracket? No, me neither. I was probably about six or seven at this point in indie history, so I was most probably listening to a ‘5ive’ cassette or playing with Lego or something. It would have been cool to be there though, because it is times like that that have led us to this album. I didn’t really listen to anything Pete Doherty made until I stumbled across the song, ‘F*** Forever’ on an NME Essential Bands compilation that I got for my birthday when I was like thirteen.

Since then though, I have (give or take) played that song at every party I have ever attended. I have stomped my feet to it, danced all cramped, slow and Ian Curtis-like to it, modelled my secondary school prom attire on the video and even looked into buying vintage Union Jack flags for my bedroom wall. I have also caught up on that whole Pete Doherty/Carl Barat/Libertines shtick since then too. Yes, Pete’s extra-curricular escapades have been pretty naughty since forever, but you can’t really question his creative output. It’s strong.

Continuing this trend then, this is the ‘Shambles’ first record in six whole years (gasp) and their third studio album, entitled, Sequel to the Prequel. Despite the long break between albums, in this case, three is most certainly a charm! Perhaps you wouldn’t expect this amount of sensible quality from a band whose frontman has recently been selling fag butts and old tin cans out of a shop in Camden, but the pre-shopkeeping move to Paris and control shift to bassist Drew McConnell seem to have worked wonders.

Sequel to the Prequel’s opener ‘Fireman’ is a flash-bang welcome back, reminding us that the energy is well and truly still there. The track takes no longer than one minute forty to make a point and lyrics ‘It’s breakfast time, have a pot of wine’, remind us of the good old days when everyone was well oiled. The second track ‘Nothing Comes to Nothing’ is what McConnell describes as: “a good old spit and sawdust Babyshambles banger”, “a slab of old school Doherty and Witnall magic” – agreed.

‘Farmers Daughter’ is where the real unexpected quality begins. An ever so cheeky hook pulls you in, you get driven around a couple of verses and a euphoric ‘F*** Forever-esque’ chorus cements the tune in your mind. This is definitely one of the peaks of the album and more importantly confirms the ‘Shambles are still valid. This song is likely to raise festival tents next summer.

‘Fall From Grace’ proves to be equally catchy and along with ‘New Pair’, it could be a cut from Doherty’s 2009 solo venture, Grace/Wastelands. Another album highlight, ‘Maybelline’ brings to mind a certain Dirty Pretty Things number and should also ring out around festivals.

The album, although mainly fantastic and void of filler, definitely has its lesser moments. ‘Penguins’ is essentially a Velvet Underground sounding song about visiting the zoo. I mean any Noah and his water-based mammalian friend can write one of them right? But again, these are complimented by better moments. The reggae-tinged track ‘Dr. No’ is wicked and is all over that Specials ting.

Overall, the album is a pleasure to listen to and even ‘Penguins’ is growing on me with its lyrics: ‘I really don’t like your boyfriend’s face, and I’m going to try and take his place.’ Regardless of what’s going on in the background, Babyshambles have put out a great indie-rock record, with highs and lows, witty lyrics here and there and a good performance from Pete. The deluxe version on Spotify even comes with a Drew McConnell song by song commentary which is worth checking out. The bottom line is if like me, you like to dance to ‘F*** Forever’ at parties, you won’t regret giving this a listen.

Image by henry laurisch
Image by henry laurisch

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