The Musings of A Wayward Poet?
In most circumstances with Babyshambles that the only way to ensure a neutral review is to tippex the name off the CD, but I'm pretty sure that Pete Doherty's caterwauls, or musing poetic lyrics, depending where your heart lies, would still be instantly recognisable. Really, isn't it a little boring reading about the band's attendance at gigs and Doherty's lifestyle? Let's talk about the music for once.
Opener 'La Belle Et Le BÍte' is a cohesive, vitriolic affair with a fair dose of catchy guitar riffs jarring against each other to get that, distinctive, quirky feel. Unfortunately with Kate Moss's ethereal vocals featured already, Doherty hardly makes it easy to extricate his music from his personal life. It has a lovely energetic bass line that just leaps around, enhancing the underlying dark stylings that make this such a rich track.
'Fuck Forever' is the lazy, but massive single that you just can't help but sing along to because the melody in the chorus is so irresistible. Its strains of delicious stoner rock must be a guilty pleasure for many an indie kid, but there's nothing to be ashamed about here, as it's simply a great tune.
'The 32 of December' is a breezy, lighthearted melody that bounces along triumphantly before the natural reflective minor pause that seems to grace each track. There are some good disco beats laid down on one such pause and it's a driving, funky tune. 'Pipedown' is an off-kilter number that staggers edgily along before a rousing chorus, while 'Sticks and Stones' sports a jaunty swagger with a hint of reggae about the guitarwork. The very obvious lyrics, "Don't look back into the motherfucking sun" give it a very bitter self-regarding slant, but maybe this works on the pitiful premise that people really are as interested in Doherty's private life as the tunes. 'Pentonville' takes the reggae vibe a lot further, with some genuine reggae beats and vocals from General Santana that come from absolutely nowhere; it's a completely incongruous tune, apart from some faint Doherty vocals in the background, as if he's singing along, it brings back terrible recollections of that Live 8 collaboration.
'In Love With A Feeling' has a more laidback feel, while '8 Dead Boys' features some pretty punk howls, but neither are really showstoppers; with 16 tracks on this album there are plenty of surplus tracks that shouldn't have made the cut, or could have at least been saved for the next album.
'What Katy Did Next' is definitely one of the tunes that deserve their place, with its roundabout, convoluted love story, some interesting percussion and a strangely disconnected feel that still works to create a catchy tune. 'Albion' starts off with a chiming riff big enough for the likes of U2 and proceeds into a reflective, crisp ballad that pessimistically captures modern life, with lyrics like "If you're looking for a cheap sort/ Glint with perspiration/ There's a four-mile queue outside the disused power station". If you're looking for wonderful social commentary that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling because it's talking about a place called home, however dire that place is, then 'Albion' is the song to seek solace in.
You wonder in parts if Mick Jones' production brief was to create a bedroom-recording type feel, with impromptu whistling and a polished, but slightly grainy feel to many of the tracks. The more you listen, the more you get the feeling that Doherty didn't want us to ignore his private life; this album seems to revel in it, with references to drugs and The Libertines chipping in. The main problem with 'Down In Albion' is the sheer amount of tracks; most bands wouldn't dream of producing a debut album that was 16 tracks long, and although many of them are great, catchy, suave numbers, when they've so much competition for your attention, the album seems to lose its edge a little. In all honesty after all the press furore this album pleasantly surprised me with the great array of somewhat untidy, but passionate and appealing songs.