Down In Albion (Rough Trade)
I once walked 6 miles in the rain to see Johnny Thunders play. Back when I didn't drive, didn't really know anybody that could drive and lived in a village that was literally six country miles from Coventry.
I am telling you this to assure you that I most definitely don't have anything against junkie rockstars. I have been mightily entertained over the years by a succession of memorably chaotic performers: Nick Cave punching the floor until his hand bled at a Birthday Party show in Camden; Jeffrey Lee Pierce incoherent and raging at the Lyceum while the Gun Club fell apart behind him; even Shane MacGowan disappearing halfway through a show in Wolverhampton on that last Pogues tour (before the reunion).
When it comes to drug addled rock the potential excitement factor is generally high while the expectation is realistically low. It's a tightrope walk for band and fan. Teetering between the exhilaratingly brilliant and the "please can I have my money back". I forgive their failings, I forget their indulgent posturing and I try to remember those mad flashes that actually got me into rock'n'roll in the first place.
All this is a roundabout way of addressing my disappointment at the new Babyshambles album. I am not sure if readers from outside the UK will appreciate quite how much coverage Pete Doherty has received this year. TV documentaries, newspaper front covers, drug busts, supermodel stings.It's easy to forget he was a musician and not the UK's first professional drug addict.
I think Keith Richards once said something about it being okay if you're taking drugs as long as you "do the work". Doherty could do with remembering this as Down In Albion is a lazy, distracted mess which veers from sloppy white reggae (that musical dead end beloved of thousands of bored jamming musicians in rehearsal spaces all over the world who are too hip to wallow in a heavy metal cover version) to half-finished proto-skiffle and a succession of tedious drug puns where once Doherty exercised his undoubted lyrical wit.
There are moments; the Rainy Night In Soho paced new single Albion with its list of grim British towns to replace Morrissey's litany in Panic; the ancient demo track reborn In Love With A Feeling, and 32nd of December is fine pop let down by apathetic vocals. One of the very best songs on the album 8 Dead Boys, which could've come from the Heartbreakers when they were at their most power-punk, is still-born with some frankly shocking drumming and with Mick Jones's leaden production which similarly hindered the earlier singles Fuck Forever and Killamangiro.
I don't actually care whether Doherty wants to give up drugs or take more and more. It's not really any concern of mine. But if he wants to be seen as an artist he's going to have to put a little more effort in next time. His talent deserves better than the kind of Sid Sings memorial he seems intent on creating.
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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