I’ve been anticipating this album for a while with a mixture of excitement, interest and in a small amount, some dread. Would it be a return to form for a band I’ve loved from day one? In my mind I hoped so, but I also feared the what if’s – What if it’s just some spare Babyshambles tracks from Down In Albion or some fuselage from Pete’s solo endeavour?
‘Fireman’ kicks the album off in typical Babyshambles style with plenty of jingle-jangle guitars, driving drums and bouncing bass lines. Very much a statement of intent for the album, all guns blazing, classic Doherty lyrical-delivery. It’s a pints-in-the-air, jumping-around-sing-along track opening the album perfectly and at just 1:42 in length, straight to the point. Next up we have the by now well-known ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’. Again, vintage Babyshambles and I’m starting to feel relieved. The middle-eight is excellent and although not what I expected, fits in perfectly. One eye on the charts? Maybe. That’s not something the band has been desperate to achieve on any earlier releases and probably not this time round either.
‘New Pair’ is certainly something different to what familiar fans may be used to. It doesn’t sound anything like a Babyshambles track and is a deviation from the previous 2 tracks (and albums I’d go as far as to say). ‘New Pair’ also stands out due to its apparent lack of chorus and as far as I can tell, starts with a middle-eight. Very interesting.
‘Fireman’s Daughter’ will surprise fans old and new. Doherty’s vocals are very, very impressive around the chorus and not something he’s displayed before and that includes The Libertines, Babyshambles or any solo efforts. It works as well as most other well written ‘loud, quiet, loud, quiet’ songs do, building well into the chorus that explodes second time round and a vocal power you won’t have heard from Pete before. ‘Fall From Grace’ features some excellent double-bass and some nice country-bends on the guitars throughout. Old Crow Medicine Show have nothing to fear but it’s a pleasant track. As displayed in Shotters Nation and Down In Albion it’s something the band always drop into their albums and accompanying sets when played live. I prefer the totally stripped back efforts of ‘There She Goes’ and ‘Lost Art Of Murder’ of old but still very much enjoyed this.
Bringing back that jingle-jangle, ‘Maybelline’ has a nice stepped-back sound to it and in parts has a 60’s feel to it. Like previous tracks it has a ‘didn’t really expect that’ feel to it which is exactly what title track ‘Sequel To The Prequel’ has too (noticing a theme?). This for me sounds like a track that didn’t make it on to Pete Doherty’s solo album. It’s certainly older than its days like ‘Sweet By And By’ from the solo album but with a Babyshambles overtone which helps it out.
‘Dr No.’ is genius. Great structure, great lyrics, a devious, creeping bass line and some fun harmonies at the chorus. If ‘Spy V.S Spy’ was re-released it would be a travesty if this song wasn’t the lead song on the soundtrack; for me an absolute must hear and rumour has it Pete is playing a typewriter throughout the track! Coming to the end of the album, ‘Penguins’ slows it down to an almost stop then kicks it back in to life at the chorus with a tricky tempo-change that really brings new life to the last quarter of the album. An intro and outro with a penny whistle never goes a miss either I suppose.
I heard ‘Picture Me In A Hospital’ a few months back when it was a demo and really enjoyed it. It has some fairly grim lyrics and undertones to it but with some delightful guitars and strings dancing along with the bright bass lines. I wondered how it would sound as a full track after enjoying the demo so much but I had nothing to fear, it was as good as I had hoped.
Justin Young from The Vaccines provides some guest vocals on ‘Seven Shades’. The track has a Vaccines-vibe too it as you’d expect it to – Drew McConnell played bass with them for a tour last year and Justin’s vocals were secured after a chance meeting in a Parisian café. One of my favourite tracks of the album – it’s raw and energetic and screaming out for a singalong.
Closing track ‘Minefield’ is a spectacular finish to the album. It builds brilliantly to 1:50 then releases an energy to the listener where you just want to crash back and look up at the sky passing you by. Experimental by Babyshambles standards, the guitars are well placed and create an excellent feel to the song that will no doubt sound incredible live.
Some might think it’s too ‘nice’ or ‘safe’ for a Babyshambles album but I’d disagree. It’s an evolution of the band’s sound for sure and on first listen I felt a bit unsure. It’s just not as dangerous as I wanted it to be. Some of the raw energy from Shotters Nation and the lyrical genius of Down In Albion wasn’t there but on second, third and tenth listen it gets better and better. Yes, there are a couple of filler tracks in my opinion that could have been on Pete’s solo album but the rest is, as well as the afore-mentioned evolution, a new Babyshambles sound and energy that we should have been expecting all along.
The clues were there – Pete in Paris for so long, trying out solo work and acting; Drew was on bass duty for another band, key elements of the album were created in a shed in a field in nowhere-ville, France. It’s a great record, probably not one for the pint-throwing 3-songs-off-the-first-album kind of ‘fan’ but one for those who really enjoy Babyshambles.