Review Summary: Another reboot from Doherty & Co. Can he finally recapture those first flourishes?
To use drug user/dealer parlance, Pete Doherty is ‘on tick’ with his fans. Once the loveable rogue escapades gave way to pathetic arrests and public embarrassments, Doherty very quickly slid from the Best of the Year lists to people’s death sweepstakes.
All of that work the Libertines did for British guitar music (for better or worse) essentially came undone with each new incident. With the Libertines seemingly an already distant memory, Doherty’s full-time project comes to the fore once again.
Sequel To The Prequel
carries with it the distinct sense that Mr. Doherty might just have his tail between his legs this time. Every record since the Up The Bracket
, the Libertine’s debut LP, has been weighed down by self-centred lyrics that offer up apologies and promises of redemption, only to be rendered useless when goes and does something stupid that the press eat up with aplomb.
So, unless drug slang has become over-intricate in the past couple of years, then the album contains barely a reference to anything you might want to put up your nose and in your lungs and veins.
Rather, Sequel To The Prequel
goes for tries to win the game by deploying catchy songs, big choruses and some half-decent musicianship, courtesy of (another) new line-up.
Opener “Fireman” is short and energetic, but loses that initial spark with some ridiculous lyrics (“sucking on phone/chewing on a microphone” & “talk about North Korea/think about your career”). Maybe we shouldn’t look too much into that though. It gets people moving live and does a job on record too.
It’s the album’s lead single that provides the first real sense that a proper effort has been made. “Nothing Comes To Nothing” benefits from smooth, clean production and everyman, arms aloft chorus (in reality, “nothing comes to nothing without my baby” is utterly meaningless, but hey). Similarly, “Maybeline” (not a paean to the cosmetic brand) hits its stride with a happy-clappy chorus and sing-a-long-a lyrics. It’s all very orderly and polite. Worrying isn’t it?
The element upon which Doherty and Babyshambles should be commended most is the mild sense of exploration they stick to on the album. No, Camden’s finest haven’t started dropping dubstep madness or proggy efforts, but the refined white reggae on “Dr. No”, the dancehall, Vera Lynn, knees up muvva Brown swing on the album’s eponymous track and the faux-country stylings of “Picture Me In a Hospital” are worth their weight here.
He might take a lot of stick, and rightly so, but somewhere you feel a number of people would like Doherty and his charges to actually do something well and stick with it. He has the charisma, a way with words and can turn a decent tune or two out when he wants.
So why does every record feel like a Year Zero? It’s because each release comes with a caveat; that being “could do better”.
For all of the positives evident on Sequel To The Prequel
there are uninspired moments like “Farmer’s Daughter” and “Fall From Grace”, which could have used more work or been dropped altogether. There’s also a sense that no matter how good any future single/album is, it’ll always be tainted by what ifs, and a lack of trust in speaking to well of the man and his music, lest it get thrown back at you twice as fast.
It’s a good start, but let’s not be having this conversation again next year, ok?