How Pete Doherty has made it to his 34th year is a mystery.
At the height of the British indie boom of the mid-2000s, if you told anybody that he’d would still be a (granted barely) functioning human being and working musician by 2013, you’d have been branded a fool and laughed out of town, with only your copy of the first Pigeon Detectives album to keep you company. But, between releasing 2009’s patchy solo album, ‘Grace/Wastelands,’ and acting in a film so bad that it holds the dubious honour of scoring 0% on Rotten Tomatoes (google ‘Confessions Of A Child Of The Century’, if you dare), here we are, with Doherty releasing the first album since 2007 from his post-Libertines outfit, Babyshambles.
Though opening track ‘Fireman’ is filled with all the ramshackle energy and punk attitude that we’ve come to expect from Doherty, it’s the lead single, ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’, that serves as the biggest shock. Sounding wonderfully optimistic with its Johnny Marr-like guitar work and absolutely massive chorus, it’s the most radio-friendly thing that Babyshambles have done by some distance. It’s also brilliant. Follow up single, ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ is even better, with stellar vocal work by Doherty hinting that there may be a quality singer in him after all. Elsewhere, ‘Maybelline’ is a wonderfully spiky piece of indie-pop that, if released in 2007, would probably be on repeat on every radio station in the land. Most shocking of all, in the middle of the Beatles homage of the title track, is supposed ‘troubled genius’ Pete Doherty actually having fun?
Long time fans of Doherty’s previous escapades shouldn’t be too alarmed by all this new found positivity; there’s still plenty of familiar moments littered throughout the record. ‘New Pair’ is a slightly most polished version of the brief acoustic moments that peppered all the carnage on the first Libertines record, while ‘Dr No’ takes his ongoing flirtation with reggae just short of fake Jamaican accents. Closing track ‘Minefield’ is a slowburning rant of a song, with Doherty sounding just as comfortable playing the voice of experience as he did playing the young ruffian all those years ago.
His time as the zeitgeist of British alternative music may have past some ago and it still isn’t quite as his efforts with The Libertines, but, as well as being the strongest Babyshambles record to date, ‘Sequel To The Prequel’ is definitive proof that Pete Doherty is not a spent force. Sure, it’s not a perfect album, but it’s significantly stronger than anybody had any right to expect at this point and miles ahead of any of the projects that his former Libertines writing partner Carl Barat is involved with right now. Hopefully, this is the start of a second wind for his career, but if not, just enjoy the record for what it is; an unexpectedly brilliant pop album.