Review: Babyshambles – Sequel to the Prequel
Published on September 5th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
No doubt about it, Pete Doherty has honed his songwriting craft. The problem with Babyshambles’ third album Sequel to the Prequel, however, is originality: there’s virtually none of it.
As a sort of mini-expo on how to write songs in various loose sorts of styles, Sequel to the Prequel is rather effective. As a genuinely worthwhile musical venture, it likely rests on how given you are to reading into and/or hanging onto Doherty’s every word.
It’s a diverse set but too clinically so, and clinical is not a phrase we’d expected to associate with Babyshambles. Upon hearing pleasantly jangly preceding single “Nothing Comes to Nothing”, we accused them of not really trying anymore – this was wrong of us, as there are worthy attempts at all sorts here.
Opener “Fireman” is Sex Pistols right down to Doherty’s punk sneer, “Fall From Grace” is a nice sort of country trot, while “Farmer’s Daughter” begins as a novel take on the ‘”Where Is My Mind?” rip-off’ genre before slipping into something akin to “Sweet Jane” by way of one of the gentler numbers from Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish LP.
It’s decent stuff though, upgraded by a big, sludgy chorus that reminds of lost Sheffield treasures Longpigs. To continue the Britpop comparisons, there’s a touch of the mid-period Supergrass about the grotty, off-kilter “New Pair” – this is of course a good thing, and its extra added dissonance consolidates its standout status here.
Having threatened to blossom into a fine album, Sequel to the Prequel gradually wears itself down with solid yet unspectacular songwriting. The diversity holds up but reveals little in the way of flair other than for pastiche – “Dr. No” is the kind of reggae/ska rehash that The Bees do much, much better, while the title track is an enjoyable but fairly predictable attempt at Ray Davies music hall.
(On the subject of The Kinks, listen out for the descending bass motif ‘borrowed’ from “Waterloo Sunset” somewhere within “Seven Shades of Nothing”.)
“Penguins” is but one display of Doherty’s realisation that he can sound sophisticated just by chucking in a minor chord next to a relative major at pretty much any juncture. This one picks up energy, though, and decorates it with such welcome lyrical mischief as “I really don’t like your boyfriend’s face and I’m going to try and take his place”.
Though frustrating in its unwillingness to deviate from firmly established patterns, Sequel to the Prequel is also entirely listenable, so it would be downright churlish of us not to factor that into the quailing.
Sequel to the Prequel is out now on Parlophone Records Ltd.
Rocksucker says: Three Quails out of Five!