Album Reviews

Various – Babyshambles: Back To The Bus

(DMC) UK release date: 18 September 2006

Various - Babyshambles: Back To The Bus Here’s an excellent compilation album from an excellent band, as the people who brought you the Back To Mine and Under The Influence series branch out into the ultimate tour bus party soundtrack.

Getting well-known musicians to choose their perfect mix tape may not be a new idea but it’s far from being a tired one. For younger music fans, finding out which bands inspired and influenced your current favourites is a perfect starting point for exploring music history. For those amongst you who are already well-versed in rock and roll’s rich past, knowing who your heroes are listening to right now can provide some equally interesting pointers to new bands you may not otherwise have thought to check out.

The choices on offer from our Petey and the boys throw up few surprises but make for a good mix nonetheless: punk energy from Johnny Thunders and (understandably, considering the influence Mick Jones’ production has had on the sound of both The Libertines and Babyshambles), The Clash – providing the only crossover between Back To The Bus and Carl Barât’s recent Under The Influence, though Barât’s preference for the New York Dolls over Doherty’s Thunders solo tells its own story.

There’s further spiky guitars from The Cazals and The Social; classic acoustic folk from troubadour Bert Jansch and more modern fare from Devendra Banhart and Belle and Sebastian. Love (not the Arthur Lee and co version) provide music hall pop-poetry, while there’s a reggae-tinged influence from Dennis Brown, classic R’n’B from Esther Phillips and jazz from Graham Collier. Many of the selections are lyrically clever, frequently bruised with irresistible romantic vulnerability and eminently listenable throughout.

Some of the tunes here don’t have an obvious influence on the low-fi fare we’d associate with Babyshambles, but this is a selection of Doherty’s favourites as much as his influences and so there doesn’t need to be any excuse other than ‘because’ for the tunes presented. Nevertheless, inclusions such as The The Stone Roses‘ Going Down and Saint Etienne‘s Only Love Can Break Your Heart (as well as The Clash’s Jail Guitar Doors) showcase Doherty’s ever-sharp sense of humour as well as his sense of poetry. He can certainly look at himself even if he isn’t necessarily laughing and at times there’s almost the sense that this is a (gulp) concept compilation on which he is airing his all-too-conscious psychological demons.

The compilation also makes the most of the opportunity to bring to the attention of the masses the kind of new bands Doherty has always championed, from The Cazals – who have clearly learnt everything they know about a riff from him (though if I was you, lads, I’d do my best to keep copies out of the hands of The Strokes‘ lawyers, too) – to The Littlans, whom Pete himself helps out on vocals. The last time they were on his tourbus, he got them arrested, y’know.

If this isn’t enough already, it’s all rounded off by an acoustic version of What Katie Did Next and Tourbus Tales Babyshambles – an interview with the band about life on the road.

It’s a shame there’s no place for the one band Pete has without shame championed throughout his career: those grand old men of folk rock Chas’n’Dave who, with Pete’s endorsement, have found themselves welcome at locations as unlikely as Glastonbury in recent years. Unfortunately, despite Doherty’s efforts, it seems they’re still not quite cool enough to be invited to the party. Shame.

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