What do we want from our heroes? These ‘people’ we invest our lives in? Love? Sex? Fame? Drugs? Bullshit. What we want is music. And a whole-hearted acknowledgement that we are here. Whether you like it or not … Mr. Lennon, Mr. Pop, Mr. Lydon, Miss. Smith, Mr. Richards etc: your music has brought us to this place. You have responsibilities. Ingest as many substances as you like. Fuck as many pretty girls and boys as you can handle. Tell everyone around you to piss off and destroy as many tourbuses, hotels and venues as you wish. We (sort of) expect it. But if you start screwing with us Mr Songwriter – remember us?, the people that buy your records and come to your gigs, the people that wake up with your songs in their head, the people that care so much about your music they begin to live through it - if you even think about messing with us, by god, we’ll hunt you down like a dawg. Or even worse, forget you ever existed. So Mr. Doherty - drug addled star, walking disaster, the persistent no-show, the sweet lost boy and the evil, maniacal waster. Now’s your chance to prove us wrong, show us that all the superficial bullshit has been worth taking, all the disappointments have been part of the plan and all this doe-eyed derangement isn’t just facilitating the rot. Give us some music worth remembering!
Goddamn it! It’s the Batman theme! Not it’s not…yes – there it is again! And wait…that’s not Kate…it is! Kate Moss is singing! The not-so happy couple make their entrance on ‘Down In Albion’s first track, ‘La Belle Et La Bete’ and it’s horrible - really horrible. We could blame Doherty for this one, but this is most definitely a collective disaster. It sounds like The Zutons trying to record one of their more out-there b-sides having just lost the ability to play music. “It’ll be alright La, let’s give it a go anyway” they might have said. I jest of course, ‘La Belle Et La Bete’ as with 99% of ‘Down In Albion’ is much, much worse.
Before we continue to delve into this quagmire of quag, it’s worth noting that Pete Doherty and Babyshambles are, of course, very easy targets. Splashed across the tabloids more than Peter Andre’s tits, the man and his band are everywhere you turn. The sheer ubiquity of this guy breeds the sort of contempt and loathing usually reserved for Presidents and Prime Ministers. So, looking past all the toss, I really wanted this to be a great record. I wanted to find something. Something gracious, something mysterious, something intoxicating, something - in the words of Wayne Campbell - Kachunga. Alas, taking up the reins and continuing to stride through these sixteen tracks of bad reggae, shambolic punk flalings and that now oh-so infuriating Doherty voice (which incidentally, is so out of tune throughout this record, it leaves the realm of the free and unique, and ends up stuck in a wobbly chimney overlooking Bethnal Green – bird shit included) we begin to realise he’s done it again. It’s disappointment after disappointment folks. You already know the abysmal ‘Fuck Forever’ and the marginally better ‘Killamangiro’, but listen to the monotonous boredom of ‘Pipedown’ – wonder what that one’s about?! – or the equally dull ‘A’Rebours’ and you realise Babyshambles have surpassed themselves on the crap-count this time. Rather than containing the intended edge, these tracks sound pathetically under-cooked. It’s unbelievable really. Yet again Mick Jones proves that he’s either one helluva lazy git or simply has no idea what he’s doing behind the mixing desk. If he was trying to catch a warts n’all ‘moment’ in the studio, both he (and the band) have failed. For the moments caught on this record are mainly awful, and the process by which he’s captured them isn’t even pleasurably unsettling. Got a spare half hour Bernard Butler? However, the poppy choruses of ‘The 32nd December’ and the trembling ‘Up The Morning’ reveal shards of greatness. But it is ‘Albion’ – supposedly Doherty’s very first composition and tellingly a tune revived from his days with The Libertines – that stands towering above the rest. It’s a rather beautiful acoustic paean to this olde isle, in which Doherty’s past charisma and enthusiasm comes flooding back: “Talk over gin in teacups /And leaves on the lawn/ Violence at bus stops / And a pale thin girl with eyes forlorn”. Here is the Doherty that needs to be heard. As he showed with ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ and ‘For Lovers’, when he gets it right, Doherty sounds disarmingly vulnerable and utterly compelling. Gone is the semi-comatose, posturing idiot. Instead we are given a charming glimpse of Pete Doherty The Songwriter. But it is a very fleeting glimpse on a record that will turn his followers heads away in shame and wholeheartedly confirm his enemies vitriol. So if you really care Mr. Doherty, you’re going to have to do a lot better than this.
4Ross Bennett's Score