Re: Babyshambles (An Open Letter to Mick Jones)

Babyshambles - Down in AlbionDear Mick,

Please stop snorting lines of blow off supermodels’ thighs for a minute and listen up. We know it was fun. Who can blame you for wanting to hang out and do drugs with Kate Moss? But you can’t let it interfere with your work, man. You had a very important job to do, Mick, and you blew it.

The release of the Babyshambles debut, Down in Albion, was a make-it-or-break-it event. After all the bullshit in the press about monasteries and burglary and Elton John, this album was supposed to prove to everybody that all the media attention was just extraneous noise surrounding a truly talented musician. Fans of Pete Doherty, myself included, wanted to be able to show the world why we care so deeply about this flagrantly fucked up young songwriter. Why is it news that some unknown (over here) musician got busted again? “Here’s why,” we were supposed to confidently declare as we cranked up the volume, Mick, on your latest production.

But that didn’t happen.

Have you listened to this album, Mick? I mean, really listened to it? Do you think it sounds good? Really? Do you like the tone of the acoustic guitar on “Albion”? Because I don’t. I think that guitar sounds like shit. Worse than shit. It’s sounds cheap and thin and buzzy like one of those terrible Ovation acoustic/electric hybrids. Is that what it is, Mick? Because it sounds fucking awful. It’s your job as the producer to make sure they play the right instruments to get the best sounds.

It’s also your job to get the best performances out of the musicians. How do you feel about the performances on this album? Think they’re pretty good? You think it’s okay for the singer to sing half his lines either off-mic or indifferently slurred beyond intelligibility? Those are the best takes? The keepers?

These boots are made for...
Jones was clearly distracted
You’ve gotten good performances out of Pete before, Mick. The Libertines’ Up the Bracket is a masterpiece of controlled chaos. It’s messy, but it’s good-messy. A band can be as sloppy as they want as long as they’ve got a great rhythm section holding it all together. And the Libertines had a shit-hot rhythm section. Babyshambles…not that great. But even before Babyshambles, you telegraphed your lazy production values on the second Libertines album. While on the first album you took the time to layer the occasional acoustic guitar under all the exuberant craziness, and worked in a nice harmony vocal here and there, on The Libertines there’s none of those touches most people associate with “production.” So the second album was loose and underproduced, but at least the performances were good. And it’s a good album in spite of its flaws, coming across as the sound of a band falling apart.

Down in Albion, on the other hand, is the sound of band that’s never been together in the first place.

Oh sure. I realize it must be very difficult to sit down with a fruitloop like Doherty and get him to focus on the task at hand. But that’s your fucking job, man. Lock a helmet on the fucker and duct tape a microphone to it if that’s what it takes. Why not? Bring a pistol into the studio like Phil Spector and demand some motherfucking respect from those lowlife clowns. For Christ’s sake, Mick, at least get them to make it through a whole song without the guitar dropping out in the middle of the second verse. Is that too much to ask?

What? Are you afraid you’re going to lose some spontaneity? Lose some of the magic of the moment? Well guess what: what you’ve lost on these recordings is much more important than anything you might have imagined. I know what these songs could’ve been in the hands of a capable producer. I’ve downloaded and listened to hours and hours of demos, so I’m fully aware that Doherty had plenty of solidly written songs for you to work with. There are good songs on this album. Unfortunately, your negligent production renders many of them unlistenable. The acoustic “Peter Doherty Untitled” demos sound superior to your officially released studio versions more often than not.

God’s mercy on your ass when your time comes to explain yourself to the Lords of Karma, because you fucked up, brother. Of course, I might be totally wrong and maybe I’m just failing to grasp your true intentions with this album. There are certainly moments of greatness. “Killamangiro” has become something of a classic. And in the build-up to the chorus of “Fuck Forever,” when Pete’s singing about how they “make you tow the line,” that’s a pretty transcendent moment. And “Pipedown” is a solid all the way through: “Put the pipe down / if you got the right sound.” Was he talking to you, Mick? And “Albion” is such a good song it almost overcomes that cheap Ovation guitar tone. Almost.

But “Pentonville Rough.” What is this, Sandinista? The producer should also be an editor, Mick, and be willing to say, “Guys, that’s a stupid idea. That doesn’t belong on this album.” But you never said that, did you?

There are plenty of “broken masterpiece” albums that a lot of people are crazy about (Big Star’s Third, Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night), and Down in Albion might end up being one of them. We’ll see. The problem with broken masterpieces is that you only realize their greatness years later. And who’s got that kind of time? Certainly not Pete Doherty, who at this rate is bound to check out any minute now.

And not me either. And I blame you, Mick Jones, for dropping the ball. You were obviously working with a bunch of fuck-ups, no question there, but it’s your job to reel them in and get their shit together. Down in Albion is not only a shambles of an album, it’s a sham.


Jake Brown, a critical fan

PS – I still love the Clash!

42 thoughts on “Re: Babyshambles (An Open Letter to Mick Jones)”

  1. you completely miss the point! it is a masterpiece…it represents Babyshambles and everything they stand for – if you knew a think about the band, perhaps that would be clear to you…

  2. “you completely miss the point! it is a masterpiece…it represents Babyshambles and everything they stand for – if you knew a think about the band, perhaps that would be clear to you…”

    OK, I’m calling bullshit. To be honest, I haven’t heard the Babyshambles album (as a matter of fact, I’ve only heard Up The Bracket as far as Doherty material is concerned) but the “it’s sloppy because it’s supposed to be sloppy!” is usually just an excuse people use when shit is half-assed. It certainly holds true in certain situations, but not every piece of shit is intentionally shitty. That’s why I’ve grown to dislike standard rock and punk. Too many people try to disguise bad as genius.

  3. you libertines and babyshambles devotees are ruthless bunch of kooks…fanboydom to the extreme…no worse than screaming 14-year-old girls and N*Sync…or 14-year-old boys and New Found Glory…blinded by your obsession to the poor quality of the shit that is being sold to you, or the poor quality of the salesman himself.

  4. could not agree more.

    What production ?

    Sadly there are good songs in there somewhere only the band could not play them ,Peter could not sing them and Mick was deafed by Bolivia !

  5. You’ve missed the point (with misplaced hostility I might add). DIA is a symphony of human perfection and imperfection – it was not made to sound atonal, generic and completely altered through the post-production process. If it’s not your cup of tea, politely order the cup of your preference.

  6. agree with some disagree with others.

    down in albion was never gonna live up to the libs, let’s face it. but it had the potential to be a shitload better than it did turn out.

    personally, i play the acoustic sessions to m’gran and say ‘this is the amazingly talented poet, singer and musician, peter doherty.’ not some fucked-up NOISE of merry go round, or bloody pentonville.

    ….but i can see where old jonesy struggled.

  7. Amen. This album could have been great and I don’t buy for a minute that any of the downright shoddy production was intentional. It’s way too fucking long and why the hell would anyone want to hear Kate Moss sing? Fuck Forever is the standout song and well worth the hype and asside from maybe 2 others this record is largely forgetable.

  8. id say babyshambles have always been a live band more than a ‘on record’ band. And the cd pretty much captures what theyre like live pretty well. Yeah id change alot of things but its still a brilliant album i think.

  9. ‘this album was supposed to prove to everybody that all the media attention was just extraneous noise surrounding a truly talented musician’

    Oh dear.

  10. I think the albun is better than anything recorded by the libertines. I think the problem for most listeners is that they want the babyshambles to sound like the libertines…….. different band folks….

  11. The babyshambles album has enough good material for an EP, I’d say. ‘Fuck Forever’, ‘Killamangiro’ and ‘Albion’ are definately the best we’re going to get from Doherty these days, but so much on there is just flat and played-out.

    I don’t think I’ve listened to the album all the way through more than twice. They’re playing the town where I work soon, but I don’t think I want to see the freak show anymore.

  12. I still love the Clash too Jake!

    I heard a few tracks from this record a while back and they seemed OK, not too memorable for the most part. I’d like to hear the whole album.

  13. Jake, you haven’t got a fukin clue. you obviously know nothing about Pete, the Libertines or music. A fan ? my arse

    Long live The Likely Lads

  14. You Brits are so predictable, always coming to the defense of your idols. Here in America we ditch them on a moment’s notice for the next big thing!

    My opinion is that Babyshambles just aren’t…essential.

  15. I’m French, so put up another xenophobic comment. And I see plenty of new bands here in Paris (71 concerts last year 109 bands seen) so forget your “here in America crap”

  16. it was just a joke. i don’t have anything against Brits or French people or anyone else. if anything, living amongst them, I have the most negative things to say about my fellow Americans. generally i just keep my mouth shut though. like a good little citizen.

  17. No offence taken or given I hope (except to Jake) of course !!

    I believe Down In Albion is as essential as Astral Weeks or Nevermind or London Calling or Born To Run “large statement”

    But then again I thought Beck’s first album would change rock’n’roll……..

    End of subjet for me

    “Keep on rockin in the free world”

  18. Please don’t blame Mick Jones for not being able to polish a turd. I think most of us have heard enough music to know when good songs –or great, even– are poorly recorded and/or produced. Down In Albion is not one of those instances. Too much hype has been attached to these talentless hacks. Enough already.

  19. Okay,I’ve never heard this album,and personally,I don’t give a fuck. “P.S.-I still love The Clash!” What the fuck? How can you even say that? You just bashed the hell out of some of Mick’s work. Don’t you EVER dare insult him like that,you cunt. I’m with what the kiko person says,if the band you produce an album for is full of crappy low life asshole musicians,of course you’re going to get shit. Don’t put this on Mick.

  20. Yes there are obvious band errors, sloppy playing, singing and writing, but there are obvious production flaws here too. Keep im mind Brandi that producers are supposed to do more than sit in a control booth sipping gin and getting head.

  21. Babywho?

    If Petey didn’t hang with Kate Moss and jag needles in teenage girls arms we would not be talking about him now.The band would tour toilet venues in the UK for perhaps 3 years before the small following dwindled to a non-profit gig for most promoters. And then they’d split up……

    Pete will end up lying dead in a pool of his own stomach contents if he carries on the way he is living now.

    Sadly had he NOT scored one good album with The Libertines, been an Indie-celeb about town for a month or two and met Kate,

    he would still probably end up looking stiffer and whiter than he is now.

    Kurt Cobain wasn’t a genius…..just a talented and messed up little boy with a knack for writing ( and stealing ) good riffs. Pete Docherty has nothing close to that talent and when the British press finally finish him off i think we’ll all come to realise that.

    The kids will always believe the hype.

    Shit, i’m sounding like my dad.

  22. docherty is a fool. The music always has been amazing, but the boy should hurry up and put a gun to his head (to quote a libertines lyric)it is inevitable. I hate him more than the gallagers!

  23. It must be really hard to be in your 50’s still doing lines and producing an album with a group of self indulged self obsessed nitwits. But poor ole Mick he could never say no to models or blow! As a matter of fact i’m sure if Strummer were alive he would have had a little chuckle at the headlines. After all it was Mick’s rock star behavior that dealt the final blow to the Clash. My advise to Mick is stay away from models, lines and self-destructive narcisstic addicts! Yo Mick with age comes “wisdom” at least to some of us.

    An old old Clash fan!

  24. Pete still a geezer,one of tha boys,leave him alone

    he`s just trying to make a living – dont buy his fukkin records if your that bothered,

    but I think the boy done good!

    John Bimson

  25. if pete doherty is only known for “jabbing needles into teenage girls” and fucking kate moss then why do you spend five minutes or so on here writing about how he’s going to die and he’s not worth your time?

    everyone’s going to die stupid, at least some people spend their life doing what they like regardless of what fuckers talk about while other people waste their life hating on everyone else.

    ps. he had kate moss sing on his album because he loves her, he doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks.

    live your life for yourself. after all it is yours and no one else’s.

    have you not accepted the fact?

  26. i like pete`s music and i like brown sugar as well

    but i`m not so busy with him and his moss

    so! u take it easy

    just listen that junkie

    don`t try to understand!

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