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Babyshambles

Pete Doherty is one of music's living soap operas. The talented musician shared frontman duties with Carl Barât in the Mick Jones-endorsed act The Libertines. That is, until his uncontrollable drug addiction and unpredictable antics--including robbing Barât's apartment for drug money--broke up the band two albums into their bright career.

Now, less than a year after The Libertines' disintegration, Doherty continues to struggle with drugs, making headlines with his troubled on-again, off-again girlfriend Kate Moss and pumping out music with Babyshambles--a new pack of English hooligans. Thankfully, the band's debut album, Down in Albion, is proof positive that Doherty's mind hasn't completely dissolved into a druggy soup.

The album's strengths are also often its weaknesses: The songs are sloppy, underdeveloped and overlong. Add to that Doherty's constant struggle between his loves for Joe Strummer and Buddy Holly, and you've got The Libertines-light. From the spiky, brazen punk of "Fuck Forever" to the drunken rockabilly of "In Love With a Feeling," the songs are mostly manageable if not as fulfilling as the real thing.

Doherty remains an engaging musician, with his narcoleptic guitar playing and slurred singing adding panache to the groovy, organ-charged "The 32nd of December" and creeping dub of "Sticks and Stones." However, he isn't entirely ready for the steady spotlight, and Barât is occasionally missed. Although critics of Down in Albion will suggest it shows a musician on the downward track, personally and professionally, I'll opt for the cheerier thought that Doherty's momentarily "Lost in the Supermarket."

More by Michael Petitti

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