Owing to a busted relationship with a supermodel and a criminal record to shame G-Unit, Pete Doherty is fast becoming a household name — even in households without a subscription to NME. Since he was ejected from the Libertines in 2004, his unwholesome antics have put him in plenty of tabloids and courtrooms, but not many recording studios. Improbable as it may seem, though, Doherty’s new band has finished an album.
Because of his erratic behavior, Doherty’s creative output is generally graded on a curve, but this time it’s mostly unnecessary. Recorded in stolen moments between Pete’s incarceration and half-attempts at rehab, Babyshambles’ Down in Albion reflects the bedlam in which it was created. Tempos are dubious, lyrics are flubbed; the band is overexcited and under-rehearsed. The included take of “Up the Morning” is reputedly the first time the song was played in one piece. Clash guitarist Mick Jones is the credited producer, but there’s not much evidence that any producing actually took place.
The record’s title refers to the fictional, idealized England of William Blake and Ray Davies, but this troubled Libertine-in-exile’s version is markedly less idyllic. “Albion,” the album’s centerpiece, sounds like a Waterloo sunset over New Jack City: “Reebok Classics, cannons at dawn / Terrible warlords, good warlords, and an English song.” On “Fuck Forever,” Doherty “can’t tell the difference between death and glory, New Labour and Tory.” He may be hitting the pipe, but he hits the right notes often enough to occasionally justify some of the attention he gets.
Babyshambles’ lineup is proving to be at least as disordered as its sonic aesthetic. The band has already replaced a drummer and it’s now searching for a new guitar player after losing one last week. And that’s to say nothing of the collaborators — Albion features backup vocals by Kate Moss and the lyrical styling of the General, one of Pete’s former prison mates.