“Babyshambles aren’t back, this band has always been here”, so says Pete Doherty following the release of Sequel to the Prequel, the band’s third studio album which comes six years after Shotter’s Nation. In the intervening years between albums Doherty has relocated to Paris whilst bassist Drew McConnell nearly lost his life whilst riding his bicycle. One could hope that these events have helped shape an album bursting at the seams with new ideas and an evolution in the band’s style. It seems one must continue to wait.
Opener Fireman has its roots in early Libertines days (plus a dash of Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols), with its furious guitars and stomping drums it’s a pulsating start albeit a quick-fire one coming in at just over one minute forty seconds. This blistering start however comes to an abrupt halt as the following tracks drag aimlessly with no particular direction at all. Songs such as Nothing Comes To Nothing and New Pair feel like they haven’t been properly finished and amble along, stumbling along the pavement in a red wine haze whilst picking up fag butts from the floor. It’s not pretty but then again it’s not meant to be.
Despite some early misdirection there are some positives. Doherty’s voice is in fine form here, Farmers Daughter and Seven Shades prove that despite many years of substance abuse his vocals haven’t suffered and if anything they sound stronger than they have in years. Producer Stephen Street is at the helm to make the album sound fresher than some of the songs would normally allow and he does a great job of getting a perfect balance across the band. Doctor No’s ska vibe breaks the album’s monotony up pleasantly, if only there were more gems like this the album would flow far better.
The album seems to be book-ended by two of its best tracks. Final track Minefield is a brooding and powerful beast that rolls menacingly up to it’s peaks of wild guitars and back down to it’s quieter and thoughtful troughs. After promising so much at the start it’s a relief that the album ends in a positive way. Whilst Doherty quietly sings “my mind is on the run” fans will hope that it doesn’t run too far and that he will return in less than six years with a new offering.