Sound — 7
Babyshambles were essentially formed to give Pete Doherty something to do during his suspension from his band, The Libertines, for his excessive drinking and drug use in 2003. Somewhere along the way it became his main project, though he did still occasionally get up on stage with The Libertines for some time after this. In the ten years since the band got together there have been numerous personnel changes, but they have stayed fairly productive. "Sequel to the Prequel" is their third full length studio album, though they have also produced several EPs. The album contains 12 tracks with a total runtime of just under 43 minutes. As a whole, the album comes across like a slowed down punk album with some instrumental "flourishes" that wouldn't otherwise show up on a punk album.
The track "Fireman" opens up the album, and really serves as possibly the best representation of the album showing the mix of indie and punk (musically), clocking in at under 2 minutes, and with lyrics like "it's breakfast time/ have a box of wine/ sucking on a bone/ drooling on the microphone." "Nothing Comes to Nothing" is the next track on the album, which somehow reminds me of The Cure and The Clash all at once. The third track "New Pair" makes some use of an acoustic guitar rhythm played in a higher register in the intro but is drowned out when the electric guitar and other instruments come in. "New Pair" has an interesting retro vibe, and is overall a pretty fun song. "Farmer's Daughter" is up next and it is propelled along by an almost schizophrenic guitar riff and the melody played by the bass during the verses. The song utilizes quiet/loud dynamics and really picks up during the choruses. "Fall From Grace" is a country punk ballad with some finger picked guitar and some lap steel in the background, which still somehow works in the context of the album. "Maybelline" marks the middle of the album, and this another track that reminds me a lot of The Cure, especially the way the rhythm and melody overlay each other. The title track "Sequel to the Prequel" is another track with some country style guitar pickin' as well as some almost "honky tonk" piano, or possibly something from a punk rock cabaret. The "Sequel to the Prequel" has an almost narrative lyric throughout the track. The track "Dr. No" has a '50s rock vibe with some of the most effective and minimalistic use of a harmonica I may have ever heard. "Penguins" starts out with a chord progression that seems vaguely familiar, though I can't place it, and once again finds the band using quiet/loud dynamics to great effect. With a hook like "I really don't like your boyfriend's face/ I'm really gonna try to take his place" this song can't go wrong. "Penguins" also has a fairly unconventional structure compared to the rest of the album. "Picture Me in a Hospital" is another interesting mix of punk and country with an oddly jolly feel musically while the lyrics are actually pretty creepy. Next up is "Seven Shades" which sounds like modern indie music, except I keep hearing hints of the Talking Heads track "And She Was" in the melody. The album closes out with the track "Minefield," which pulls off a really unique vibe. The slow tempo, pounding percussion and bass, and the lyrics, "if you're pissing in the wind/ watch your feet/ watch where you tread," equal the strongest song on the album in my opinion.
Lyrics — 8
Pete Doherty definitely has his own vocal style, and it is displayed in all its diversity on "Sequel to the Prequel." From song to song, or sometimes line to line he switches between a mild punk rock snarl to a slurred crooning to a higher pitched sing-songy type of delivery. He has a voice that I probably would dislike if he was fronting another project, but it really works well for this album and his previous work with Babyshambles. The lyrics on the album definitely kept me engaged throughout the album, ranging from narrative to neurotic. As a sample, here are some lyrics from the song "Fall From Grace": "I've got one thing on my mind/ I just can't shake it/ you've got your reasons/ I've got mine/ when the dam bursts/ I can't take it/ we'll drown our sorrows/ here it comes/ look here it comes/ with my head hanging high and my hands untied/ on the horizon as I looked a piece of land I spy/ can we go some place where they know my face/ gather round now/ be witness to my fall from grace."
Overall Impression — 7
The bottom line is that "Sequel to the Prequel" is never going to be called "genre-defining" or "groundbreaking" or even "exceptional," but it is an exceptionally fun album. I don't mean that like the songs are bubbly and happy, but the music and lyrics are engaging in a way that a lot of new music isn't. While the musicianship isn't great, it is very solid. My favorite tracks on the album would have to be "Minefield," "Farmer's Daughter," "Fireman" and "Penguins." Pete Doherty just happens to be a "troubled genius" and while his eventually crashing/burning seems inevitable, the art he's creating through his music is still relevant and interesting.