It's amazing. A group comes out of the gate, looking like the next "big thing" only to self-destruct. The root cause of all the rants, backbiting and general nastiness is, more often than not, drugs. That's basically the Libertines story.
With one album under their belt and a strong industry buzz, the UK based Libertines headed to New York to record their second album, the so-called Babyshambles sessions. But before the project was completed, singer/guitarist Carl Barat left in disgust over the wasted hangers-on that surrounded singer/guitarist Pete Doherty. The sessions ground to a halt with Doherty giving the tapes to a fan who posted the songs online. Eventually, a 3 CD set found its way to eBay.
A second Libertines album eventually came out but by then the damage was done. Doherty left. His bandmates' intolerance of his drug use was tagged as the reason. However, Doherty, in his defense, claimed he wasn't the only band member using drugs and hinted mysteriously that there were other reasons for his departure. Whatever.
Soon after, Doherty formed the Babyshambles (possibly an allusion to Jonathan Swift's satiric essay, A Modest Proposal) with their self-titled single hitting in April of '04. But working with Doherty was no more tolerable in Babyshambles than it had been in the Libertines. The band underwent several line-up changes before finally stabilizing in the summer of '04 with Doherty, guitarist Patrick Walden, drummer Gemma Clark and bassist Drew McConnell. Rough Trade Records released the group's second single, "Killamangiro," which actually cracked the UK Top 10. But early impressive London shows were soon followed by a pair of dreadful ones. In Blackpool, the band walked off stage when it became clear Doherty was too intoxicated to perform. Doherty's no-show at a London Astoria gig led to a riot. Ah, but there's more.
In the first weeks of '05, Clarke split claiming the group's management was not addressing Doherty's obvious drug problem. A few weeks later she was replaced by Adam Ficek. As might be expected, Doherty ran into legal hassles, including assault and suspicion of possession of Class A drugs. He actually managed to beat the assault charge and tried to alibi away the drug one. He was released on bail.
With producer Mick Jones (formerly of The Clash), who worked on the Libertines' albums ('02's "Up the Bracket" and '04's "The Libertines"), the Babyshambles "Down In Albion" had a UK release in late '05. The U.S. version came in early '06. But even before that happened there was more trauma. The group played some London shows without Walden. A short time later it was announced that Walden had left to "pursue other projects." Then Doherty managed to get busted once again for drug possession. Big surprise.
If a group booked as many shows as Doherty had court appearances they'd be doing very well. Seemed Doherty was either going to court, getting arrested (leading to more court appearances) or punching somebody on the way out. When Babyshambles was named "Worst Live Band" (Naomi Award) in '06 it looked as though the group's entertainment niche was tabloids rather than music. Add to that, Doherty's "on-again/off-again - where are we today?" relationship with model Kate Moss and he looked done for. But before anyone could kiss-off Doherty and company they produced "The Blinding" EP which gave everyone hope.
Babyshambles sophomore effort, "Shotter's Nation" arrived in '07. Originally, Moss was on the album's front cover in Agent Provocateur lingerie but that had to be replaced for copyright reasons. Ah well, Doherty was just trying to get his girlfriend a little exposure (like she needed it).
2005 Down In Albion
2007 Shotter's Nation
2013 Sequel To The Prequel
There is an old saying that goes "reality is for people who can't handle drugs." On occasion, and it's rare indeed, a musician's drug fueled lifestyle leads to a creative explosion. Obviously, it doesn't last, and the wreck spends the rest of their career, if they even have one, futilely trying to recreate past glories through a burned out haze. More often, drugs spike inspiration and drag a band to oblivion. So which is it for Peter Doherty and Babyshamles? Turns out, neither. Babyshmables' "Down In Albion," is neither genius nor dud.
Maybe because the group (or at least Doherty) seemed in 'shambles', it's a pleasant surprise that "Shotter's Nation" is as good as it is.