Sunday, October 28, 2007

Babyshambles / "Shotter's Nation"

Babyshambles' lead singer Pete Doherty has found himself in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. He's served frequent stints in rehab, come under tabloid scrutiny due to his high-profile relationship and subsequent split with Kate Moss, had pictures emerge of him appearing to inject heroin into an unconscious girl... you get the idea. That he's also one of the UK's most popular artists (both with Babyshambles and former band the Libertines) has become practically an after-thought. He now again emerges, following his least acclaimed album (the Babyshambles' 2006 release "Down in Albion") and still a hot commodity to tabloids. Yet, despite recent artistic struggles and all of his distractions, "Shotter's Nation" is surprisingly not a bad album.

Doherty continues to borrow heavily from the Britpop sound of Oasis and Blur on this album. The opening number "Carry Up the Morning" (or any track for that matter) could've been pulled from any post-"Parklife" Blur album. Once you get over the fact that there's little musical originality to be found though, you have to stop and remember: Blur released some very good albums after "Parklife". Doherty may not be fresh, but that won't keep you from enjoying the album. Lyrically, the album is okay. Passages like "here comes the delivery / straight from the heart of my misery" from second track "Delivery" are about as deep as a crack in the sidewalk, but the band drowns them out in enough guitar and keeps an uptempo pace most of the time to keep the album enjoyable. That's the key to "Shotter's Nation", and its most unexpected gift: it's fun! Songs such as "You Talk" and the excellent "Crumb Begging" give the listener the feeling that Doherty, despite all the directions his life has gone in lately, is genuinely enjoying making this music.

It's not always fun and games though. Doherty throws in his best Oasis ballad (with decent results) on "Unbilotitled" and goes acoustic on the album's closing track, "The Lost Art of Murder." "Murder" is an interesting track, much more than anything else on the album. Here, on the final track, we finally hear the band sounding like themselves. While the track itself is nothing great, and lyrics like "stop smoking crack" come off as humorous rather than harrowing coming from Doherty, it gives indication that perhaps Doherty and the band are moving toward something new. Honestly it would be for the better. While this album and his previous work with the Libertines are all enjoyable to listen to, they remain nonetheless unoriginal work from a musician whom I continue to believe is capable of more. Hopefully this is his last album as "Blur Jr.", since if it is he'll have gone out on nearly as good a note as a title like that can allow.

Rating: 6.8

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