Babyshambles return with an album that is full of unfamiliar optimism, but the brighter outlook is at the expense of poignancy.
‘Fireman’, a raging Sex Pistols punk number, rips open proceedings for the band’s third album Sequel To The Prequel, but it’s about as raucous as it gets, with first single ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’ an indication of the softer and poppier roots the band are now venturing in.
The single was released to much fanfare, after all it was the first new Babyshambles track since 2007, and whilst there are high points such as Doherty’s confessional lines including ‘Won’t you come back to earth they’re all concerned, you know how they’re worried for you’ it’s all a bit wishy washy, far from their signature ramshackle sound that made them one of the most unpredictably brilliant bands of the last decade.
‘Farmer’s Daughter’ is Sequel’s anthem, its answer to Down In Albion’s ‘Fuck Forever’, but despite Mik Whitnall’s jagged spikes during the intro it’s a downbeat affair, chipper guitar notes propped up by a plodding bass line and drumbeat. The catchy chorus is probably one of the band’s best to date, Peter’s voice sounding as good as it has done in years, almost like how it would if he hadn’t spent his adult life inhaling toxic fumes. ‘When sunlight hits the snow’ balls an emotional Peter, a far cry from his lyrics about pissed up bastards.
His move from London to Paris has clearly had positive impact on his life, and whilst he’s recently admitted to still being addicted to crack and heroin (he told the NME that the only way he’d be able to give them up is if he lost one of his arms) you get the impression that he’s leading a somewhat happier life nowadays. The title track is a jazzy Parisian café number, full of life and joy, the sound of a band enjoying themselves for maybe the first time ever.
So what’s with this brand new upbeat mind set? Mik is finally clean which will undoubtedly have had a positive impact on the rest of the band, but it’s really all down to Drew McConnell, and whilst Peter may be the focal point, it’s the bassist who took centre stage during the recording process.
In July 2011 Drew was knocked off his bike in London and suffered horrendous injuries, breaking his spine in three places, five ribs, a shoulder and a knee, he even had to re-learn how to walk. Once he recovered he was a rejuvenated man, throwing himself into the album and getting the ball rolling, which you imagine would be tough considering he’s got Peter and Mik to work with, and him and produce Stephen Street (Smiths, Blur, Shotter’s Nation) keep things tight.
One of the most telling aspects of the release was the song writing credits, which with the past two albums have belonged almost exclusively to Doherty. On Sequel each song is shared, showing the band is now working together as one, rather than just propping up its frontman. It’s probably the reasoning behind the album sounding more complete than the other two, though it simply doesn’t grab you by the balls and force you to take notice.
The more sinister ‘Minefield’ with its haunting rhythm and shrieks of guitar provides the album with an unfitting, blistering and welcome finale. In between the more crunchy opening and ending tracks we see a band who have probably just grown up quite a bit. A reinvigorated Drew, a clean Mik and a Parisian Peter have created an album that doesn’t really stand up to their previous two, but it’s obvious that they didn’t want to create the same kind of chaotic ‘in the gutter’ sound. Regardless of how successful it is, it’s just great to have a healthier and happier Babyshambles back and recording music again.