Most new English records are the bastards of Mark E. Smith and Mark Knopfler, but there’s a bit of Moby Grape and Aerosmith on Down in Albion from ex-Libertines’ guitarist/singer Pete Doherty’s current full-time band. Though Big Audio Dynamite’s Mick Jones is the producer, there’s less double vision or head games here than you’d expect. “Can’t tell between death and glory”, runs the “Under Pressure”–hysterical power ballad “Fuck Forever,” then the descending guitar run at 3:38 reminds you that Sandy (Blue Oyster Cult) Pearlman produced Give ’em Enough Rope. “Sticks on Stones”, on which Jethro Tull’s Barriemore Barlow is credited on gong, is Sandinista! with more complicated vocals—a high-tech production technique makes every syllable appear to have been recorded at a different distance away from the microphone.
Former Primal Scream singer Kate Moss also appears—Doherty’s biggest scrap with nosebleed-altitude fame since exposing a nipple at the Super Bowl. His own vocals are Ian Hunter as Paul Westerberg’s Tin Machine replacement. (“8 Dead Boys”—oy vey, babys!) There’s a “Love Hangover” break in “32nd of December”, and even the post-punk track works—bands who cite Entertainment! and Metal Box really mean Joshua Tree and The King of Comedy OST, but “Pipedown” works in a Pogues kind of way.
Aside from the Loop-y Ride of “Up the Morning” (what the Boredoms have been trying to do ever since they discovered college radio, namely the Blur of “Sing” and “This Is a Low”) and an acoustic-reggae prison ballad, Down in Albion is a nonstop series of climactic riffs and free-associative commentary, Rocks (with more tempo changes) overlaid with a dark Night in the Ruts mood. The slight departure from the Libertines’ robotic precision may alienate those large sections of the U.K. public whose music choices consist mainly of ringtones, but Babyshambles still draw crowds that combine the best qualities of Deadheads and straight-edge. Pretty hot-blooded and urgent, for foreigners.