"SITTING ON THE GALLOWS WITH MY HEAD IN A NOOSE
JUST FOR A SECOND I THOUGHT I SAW SOMETHING MOVE
Dylan's 'Things Have Changed' rings through the hall. Minds flash from one fading star to another. I wouldn't mention it, but the symmetry seems so perfect, the emotion so complete. Eventually, terrace chants drown out the PA, just as the crucial line passes unnoticed, like a joint at a hippyfest, "only a fool in here would think he's got anything to prove". It really is make or break time for Babyshambles, but their whole tour is merely a sideshow to the ongoing Pete Doherty situation. It wouldn't be unfair to suggest that their success is based wholly on their charismatic leader, and consequently there's little point writing about Babyshambles without concentrating solely on Doherty.
History has proved that the term 'poet' is enough to justify any amount
of chemical, but not mental, excess. So, let's get this straight, stoned
scenesters - when many of tonight's songs are nothing more than stoned
meanderings on love or hate, Babyshambles bear no resemblance (in quality
or sound) to the Libertines. Without Carl Barat, Doherty's lost his
Marr(bles), and the subsequent chemistry he made his name from is gone
forever. He now crowds himself in with grubby toilet circuit musicians,
whose sole virtues seem to be patience with his emotional merry-go-round.
Desperation rings true in every earnest stumble, every syncopated handclap,
every time he's required to do something other than sing. No Libertines
songs threaten to introduce some profound hegemony into their chaotic
set, and as they work through characteristically shambolic versions
of 'Pipedown' and 'From Bollywood To Battersea' it become increasingly
obvious where the magic's gone.
However, tracks such as 'Kilamangiro' and 'Blackboy Lane' (if you can find it within yourselves to ignore the casual racism - I couldn't) are immense Mount Zions to the comparative set of Babylonian molehills, and flash their real potential and ambition. 'Fuck Forever' is typical of the current Doherty philosophy. The sentiments are narrow minded and short sighted, willfully glamorizing pyrrhic notions of "death and glory" without realizing he's merely misquoting his beloved Clash. He may be living life for the present, but you can't live fast and live forever. But as a document of pure hate and frustration it's beautiful and pure. At this notable high Doherty is stable and audible, but as the show staggers from punk through pub rock, he appears at his worst- a caged jester giving cheap kicks.
You can only believe the hype for so long. After a few tracks the futile exhibitionism rings hollow, and it doesn't take much divine intervention to realise Pete Doherty is nothing more than a normal guy. The refusal of the press for him to be anything else is far more poisonous to him than any narcotics. The once babyfaced cheeks now hang swollen off the skeletal cheekbones, and the military chic and straw hats seem all but a parody of his triumphant Libertines days. I know asking questions of Pete Doherty IS asking questions of the whole music ergo entertainment industry, and he may be THE icon of rock and roll rebellion for 2005 (mainly due to lack of competition), but there comes a time when cynicism overawes enthusiasm enough to judge his rebel stance as less authentic than Che Guevara on a Gap t-shirt. Conscious of it or otherwise, he's just the pretty face for a thousand and one soulless executive pimps to cash in, and is obviously paying the price.
I'll eat his straw hat if Pete Doherty goes down in History as another caricature punkie junkie Sid-a-like, but for the time being, carrying the carcass of a broken band on his shoulders and as negotiating 27 grows trickier, it's looking increasingly like the easy way out. Cheap sentiment can only go so far, so PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER PETE.
"I used to care, but things have changed"? Jeeze, Bob.
By Tom King
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