PARIS, (Reuters Life!) - Pete Doherty’s Babyshambles released a new album this month to praise from critics for a “gifted musician” who has survived the media scrutiny of his wild life but has yet to deliver the great opus his fans crave.
“Totally, truly rehabilitated: Behind all the tabloid headlines there was a great Pete Doherty album waiting to get out. Now it’s here,” Observer Music Magazine critic Garry Mulholland said.
But Time Out magazine’s Chris Parkin was less impressed: “Shotter’s Nation is much better than expected, but if this is the masterpiece, expectations are low,”. He called the album “just decent indie rock”.
“Shotter’s Nation” - shotter is a slang word for drug dealer - was released on Oct 1.
It is the follow-up to Babyshambles debut album “Down in Albion” launched in 2005 which was panned by critics as being slack and chaotic.
This time around, Doherty has a contract with a large label Parlophone/EMI and Stephen Street, producer of albums for British bands Blur and The Smiths was in command.
Apparently tensions ran high in the studio, with Street telling the NME in an interview: “It was one of those albums where it did need a bit of a cracking of the whip”.
Street did a great job smoothing out the rough edges of Doherty’s talent and a clearer album is the result, critics said.
“Sharp”, “coherent, “efficient” “concise”, “disciplined” were the adjectives that have popped up in most reviews.
“We kind of hit the nail on the head, whereas ‘Down In Albion’ there was kind of lots of nails flying all over the place and my hands were in a much worse state,” Doherty said in an NME interview over the summer.
One refreshing change from the previous album is that this time around Doherty was able to sing, critics and fans agree.
“In Down in Albion Doherty opted for a terrible lethargic defeated whine that made him sound less like a rock singer than someone sitting by a cash point with a blanket and a dog,” says Alexis Petridis from The Guardian.
“Here he sounds authentically angry on Baddies Boogie, urging an abused housewife to “stick one in his face for me” and genuinely lovelorn on the closing Lost Art of Murder,” he adds.
The album is also the sound of a more professional band, critics said, praising the guitar work of Mick Whitnell, who some say has taken over the tempering role of Doherty’s former Libertines bandmate Carl Barat.
The album’s themes still revolve around drugs, guilt and Doherty’s tempestuous relationship with fashion model Kate Moss.
“It’s also about love, loss, the British urban landscapes, laughing at yourself, great guitars, exciting chord changes, tight rhythms...” says Mulholland.
Self-pitying lyrics and too many arcane references to Doherty’s inner circle of friends, and a rather conventional sound are the album’s main shortcomings, some critics said.
“Perhaps you can’t blame Doherty for his solipsism: if idiots publish your illegible diary scribblings in lavishly tooled hardback you’re bound to end up with a warped idea of how fascinating your life is,” says Petridis.
In the end, after all the drugs, the no-shows, the arrests, the rehab stints and the celebrity girlfriends overshadowing his music, Doherty may be on the right track.
“While becoming a tabloid spectacle hasn’t helped Pete Doherty’s artistic reputation, the second Babyshambles album proves that it hasn’t crushed his talent,” said Victoria Segal in The Times.