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Ex-Libertines mainstay Pete Doherty is as well known for his auto-destructo personality as his music. That fervent dedication to the notion of rock star as tortured addict/poet/savant has made him the target of as many barristers and tabloid reporters as music critics in his native UK, sucking supermodel girlfriend Kate Moss (whose cameo on the opening "La Belle et la Bete" here) into its opiate-fueled vortex in the bargain. But no amount of genuflecting to the junkie pantheon can disguise the bristling pop strengths of Doherty's brilliant Babyshambles debut. Expanding his former band's jones for new wave and English music hall with a sharp, tossed-off literary sense, some potent Jam/Clash-bred social consciousness and musical edge (not surprising to find the latter's Mick Jones reprising his Libertines production duties here), the inspirations now span Ray Davies (the pop tart "32nd of December") and Rasta ("Pentonville"'s spare dance hall, the blue beat of "What Katy Did Next" and sleepy "Sticks and Stones"). Doherty's stream-of-consciousness ethos yields an oft slovenly sprawl that stubbornly defies deconstruction. Yet on tracks that range from the energetic punter's lament "Killimangiro" and nihilistic hook-fest "Fuck Forever" to the unlikely anthem "Pipedown," Albion's confessional melancholy, and the gorgeous dissolution of "Up the Morning," Doherty proves he's about considerably more than slouching artfully towards oblivion--or the next tabloid headline.
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