No band of recent times has split opinion as much as Babyshambles. But this, at last, is the moment both fans and doubters have been waiting for – because Babyshambles' second album 'Shotter’s Nation' showcases the band at their very best.
Peter Doherty: "I don't want to say anything that knocks any other records I've made, but this time around we've made a record that's simply a great record. I'm so proud of it… it's almost sad really that I’ve had trouble putting on records that I've made and this time it's really natural: we've made a record – let's listen to it and enjoy it."
Peter's being modest, though. Teaming up with legendary producer Stephen Street (Blur, The Smiths), this is the record that Peter Doherty and Babyshambles always had the potential to make. Recorded in just a few weeks in Olympic Studios, London, the songs display a breadth the band have always hinted at but never really captured on record.
Peter: "This time around we hit the nail on the head, whereas with ‘Down In Albion’ there were lots of nails flying all over the place. This time I was able to sing, and self-control was a bit more exercised all together."
From the 60s' Doors-y groove of ‘Crumb Begging Baghead’ to the jazzy brushed-drum splendour of ‘There She Goes’ this is a band who've dusted themselves down after countless scrapes to produce what is Peter Doherty's most fully realised set of melodies to date.
Stuffed with lyrical insights, Peter Doherty and Babyshambles have poured their heart and a huge array of influences into ‘Shotter’s Nation’, producing an album that's as spontaneous as anything they’ve done before but swells with a series of tunes set to win over doubters.
Adam Ficek: "I think Stephen captured it really well. It's clean enough but it still has that raw edge in the middle."
Clearly the band’s relationship with Stephen Street was built on mutual respect. Peter: "After a some fumbling around and dustbin kicking, he looked me in the eye. The ground rules were laid: it was alright from then on."
Formed by Peter Doherty in 2003, initially with an intentionally fluid group membership, Babyshambles finally settled on a regular line-up in Summer 2004 after the implosion of the Libertines. In January 2005, Adam Ficek joined on drums, replacing Gemma Clarke. The band released their debut album, ‘Down In Albion’, in November 2005. Guitarist Mick Withnell joined in 2006, replacing Patrick Walden. He is, according to Peter Doherty, "the finest ska guitarist in the UK".
In 2006 the band headlined Loaded In The Park on Clapham Common, London to great acclaim and followed this with the release of the four-track EP 'The Blinding'. The video was directed by filmmaker and punk chronicler Julien Temple.
In November 2006, the band – continuing the tradition long established during Peter’s days in the Libertines – gave away mp3s of songs in progress to fans via the internet for free. Finished versions of some of those songs are on this album.
Peter: "We really didn't know at the time that these songs were ever going to be finished or even end up on any album. Some did and obviously they're the same titles but I don't think you've ever heard anything like it sounds on the album, particularly ‘Delivery’ which I don't think I've ever sang in tune live.. haha!."
‘Delivery’, the lead single, is a rollicking hymn to escaping the daily grind. Peter: "It's about some kid in a brewery leaning up against the wall, getting told off by his boss time and time again for not being there when the crates got delivered and at the weekend he'd put on his favourite Fred Perry and just go out and get battered and have a scrap and find a girl and then do it all over again on the Monday. It's kind of about escape as well - escaping the mundane kind of nine to five. That song’s a magic carpet with lots of kegs of ale on it."
A broad range of influences shine through on this album, from the Kinks, through to punk, Stone Roses, a touch of Soul 2 Soul, 80s' indie, Madness, Blondie, Motown, Britpop and even one inspired by their UK number four hit single ‘Fuck Forever’.
Lyrically, the album captures the many facets of Peter's character: storyteller, lyricist, street poet, hopeless romantic and chronicler of British life. From capturing the feeling at sunrise after a night on the tiles, to delving into a self-destructive 20 year marriage (‘Baddie's Boogie’) this is an album of rare emotional breadth. The album even manages to immortalise Peter's doodle invention (and ‘Down In Albion’ cover star) French Dog in one of the album's highlights 'French Dog Blues'
All songs are written by Peter Doherty, with contributions from Mick, Adam and the band. On ‘Unbilotitled’, Peter’s old mucker Wolfman wrote some of the lyrics (the pair penned a top ten single in 2004 with 'For Lovers').
The album's finale is the delicate beauty of 'The Lost Art Of Murder', played acoustically and accompanied by UK folk legend Bert Jansch, with whom Peter sang during his recent two night stint – ‘An Evening With Peter Doherty’ – at London’s Hackney Empire.
Drew: "They recorded it with Bert playing the guitar and Peter singing along so Bert's acoustic part and Peter's vocals were recorded at the same time. Peter put some arpeggio guitar over it. A lot of people think that's Bert when they first hear it. For a bit I was in the room with them playing double bass and I thought "you know what, man, this song is gonna sound beautiful as it is", so it thought I'm not going to push it. I just got up and left them to it."
This fragile bird of a song alone shows Peter to be one of the great singer/songwriters of the past 20 years.
So this is it, twelve songs of range and depth that highlight their songwriting and playing prowess brilliantly. ‘Shotter’s Nation’ is a record for fans and newcomers alike with each listen revealing new complexities in the arrangements. Forget the obsessions of celebrity media: this is about the music. This is the album that Peter Doherty and Babyshambles have always promised to make.
‘Shotter’s Nation’ was recorded at Olympic Studios in Barnes, west London and produced by Stephen Street (Morrissey/The Smiths, Blur). The album has already been hailed in the press, with the NME proclaiming;
“It is a concise, invigorated and coherent collection of punch-packing pop songs. Babyshambles have far exceeded all expectations. This record is the work of a bunch of musicians hell-bent on making the best record they have in them”.
This is indeed the record Babyshambles always threatened to make.