Babyshambles Down in Albion

As far as the public is concerned, former Libertine Pete Doherty is Kate Moss’s ex-boyfriend first, a junkie second, a felon third and a musician fourth. Though talented, Doherty’s recent arrests for drug possession have found him more exposure in the tabloids than Babyshambles’ debut album has found in the music press. It’s a shame too, because Down in Albion is actually rather good. Not miles away from the in-the-gutter, poetic pop he wrote with Carl Barat (now of Dirty Pretty Things) in the Libertines, Babyshambles is Doherty in action with full control over the content. Sure, he has a competent band behind him, but this is his chance to show who was responsible for the Libs’ great songs. Recorded by Mick Jones yet again, Albion is unsurprisingly sloppy throughout, but immaculately captures the stark vision of its songwriter. "Fuck Forever” gives the sense that he is conscious of his troubles, admitting: "I’m so clever, but clever ain’t wise,” before he cheekily confesses that they’ll never play the song on the radio (FYI: the song was a top five hit). "Albion” is easily the standout of the album, providing an honest, emotional outlet that does a fine job in showing Pete isn’t always a fucked up burn out. Even Moss makes an appearance with a deliciously sexy whisper, but irrational moments like the ragga flavour of "Pentonville” and an hour-plus running time make Albion far from perfect. Still, for a guy who likely had a needle in his arm for most of these songs, it’s an exceptional start, and hopefully he lives long enough for this not to be the end. (Rough Trade)