In a former life I spent hours upon hours immersing myself in the music of The Libertines; poring over lyrics, reading the sordid tabloid stories, and losing myself in the fucked-up romanticism of it all. Ten years on, we’ve all grown up. I no longer listen to indie Brit-pop, read Q Magazine, or ride a skateboard. The Libertines no longer exist, and their resident poet/needle bin/supermodel handbag, Pete Doherty, is now the frontman of Babyshambles, the band he started when Carl Barât kicked him out of The Libertines for basically being shit at life. Though I may have grown out of that phase, I’ve still purchased every single Doherty release I could get my hands on over the years, being particularly blown away by the last Babyshambles album Shotter’s Nation.
I’ve been looking forward to Sequel To The Prequel since news of it surfaced earlier in the year. The album gets off to a rip-roaring start with ‘Fireman’, the rawest and most Libertines sounding song on the record. It’s a short lived reminder of past glories, however, as the excellent ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’ picks up where Shotter’s Nation left off. It’s a brilliant piece of pop songwriting, with Doherty sloppily drawling the last ‘baaaaaby’ of the chorus as if he no longer gives a shit about the person in question, or the song. It’s far more charming than I make it sound, and it’s moments like this that have made me continue to buy his records over the years, regardless of his (very) uneven output.
The soaring chorus of ‘Farmer’s Daughter’ comes as a complete surprise, and is probably Doherty’s finest moment on record. He makes the somewhat shocking lyrics of “He knows where his daughter goes / Across the rape fields / To where the sunlight hits the snow” sound romantic, beautiful and inviting, utilising a surprisingly great singing voice, that otherwise goes missing when he sounds like he’s mumbling through a mouthful of socks. It’s simultaneously the most fulfilling and frustrating song I’ve ever heard and begs the question: Why don’t you sing like this all the time?
Unfortunately the album meanders towards the middle, with a couple of skiffle and vaudeville type numbers, along with the ridiculous reggae of ‘Dr No’, taking some of the band’s influences to their obvious conclusions. On the whole though, it’s a fairly strong record, placing it somewhere between their unfocussed debut Down In Albion and the very good Shotter’s Nation in their discography to date.
This would have been the soundtrack to my year in 2003, unfortunately my 29-year old self has moved on musically and mentally. I want to like this record a lot more than I actually do. The main problem with the album is that Doherty is still the laziest singer in Brittan; something he got away with in the racket of The Libertines, but that comes to the fore in the cleaner production and more pop-oriented songs on Sequel To The Prequel. While occasionally charming (See ‘Nothing Comes To Nothing’), it mostly just ruins otherwise good songs. That said, Sequel To The Prequel has enough high points to satisfy any former Libertines or current Babyshambles fan, and will show the current crop of upcoming indie guitar bands how to utilise melody, rather than relying on noise.
Rating: 7 Prequels out of 10 Sequels
By Clint Morrow