Rough Trade – 2005 - 63 minutes

If a movie is ever made about the life of former Libertines lead singer Pete Doherty, it would likely be a story about his reported drug problems and supermodel girlfriend Kate Moss, such is the constant media focus on these matters to the exclusion of music.

It's timely, then, that his new band Babyshambles are releasing their debut to remind us Doherty is primarily a rock musician.

And yet there's only patchy evidence on 'Down in Albion' of a rock god for 21st Century Britain. Opener 'La belle et le bete' has a good riff but is let down by a combination of wailing and speak-singing vocal styles.

An early highlight of this 16-track album is lead single 'F**k Forever', which carries a tuneful and bright air that belies its frequent expletives and despondent lyrics. A new recording of the band's first ever single, 'Killamangiro', is also included.

'The 32nd of December', an apparent tale of New Year's celebrations gone wrong, also has cheerful guitar lines and a singalong chorus.

Much of the album is quite dreary however, such as 'A'rebours' and 'Pipedown', where Doherty's addled bawling drops the mood further. On '8 Dead Boys', some impressive electric guitar is let down by Doherty's repetitive anguished wails. 'Sticks and Stones' is similarly plodding, and even features a whistling section.

There's no obvious reason for the inclusion of Rastafarian prison refrain 'Pentonville' other than to break up proceedings. 'What Katy Did Next' is a good tune, but is let down by the singing in a sort of lazy conversational style that does no favours to the music.

'In Love with a Feeling', the record's only slow song, gets nowhere near the beautiful vocal heights of Doherty's one-off single with Wolfman 'This Is For Lovers', which must stand out as one of his musical achievements to date.

Which brings us to 'Albion', a song near the close of the album that comes closest to serving what is evidently Doherty's primary function in this world - to provide anthems for working class England. It even features lists of English place names like a roll call of followers to the ex-Libertine's creed. Still, it's hard to see how lines like "Gin in tea cups, leaves on the lawn/violence at bus stops" could be said to representative of Babyshambles fans.

Ultimately, this tendency of not quite hitting the target is Babyshambles' biggest problem on a sprawling debut that leaves the jury out on their prospects as British rock legends. 

Bill Lehane

Tracklisting: La Belle et le Bete – F**k forever- A'rebours – The 32nd of December – Pipedown – Sticks and Stones – Killamangiro – 8 Dead Boys – In Love with a Feeling – Pentonville – What Katy Did Next – Albion – Back from the Dead – Loyalty Song – Up the Morning – Merry Go Round