From the mind-blowing cover image by radical artist Damien Hurst to the closing demo-version of stand-out track, Dr No, this is a tour-de-force from Babyshambles.
How the so-called 'functioning' heroin addict, Pete the poet, can produce such a varied and exciting set of rocky, reggaefied, punky, folky, jazzy tunes is beyond belief. How does he do it?
The stand out tracks reveal something of the weight that our errant genius struggles under, though - in both 'Minefield' and 'Dr No' there is an intimation of the scary nature of addiction, 'there are sharks in the water and the water's deep' mutters poor old pete, and of course 'it's a minefield out there!' is not the chorus of a happy man. Still, for all that, many of the tracks are upbeat, fun and the lyrics witty. 'The Very Last Boy Alive', 'Stranger In My Own Skin' and 'Nothing Comes To Nothing' are all exemplary pop-rock songs, with great hooks and melodies, and a smattering of one-liners, lyrics that indicate a lively mind. Pengiuns for instance boasts the comedy line 'I really don't like your boyfriend's face/I'm going to try and take his place'.
For me, only the opening track Fireman seems dodgy, a throw back to an earlier punk ethos, where it was important to paint a deranged picture in sound rather than create great art. I think, because of this one misstep, that means that 'Shotters Nation' is still Babyshambles' strongest single piece of work, but when you hear mighty, rocking tracks like 'Picture Me In The Hospital', 'Fall From Grace' and 'Seven Shades' you might have to admit this is a masterful album. And funny little off-the cuff stuff like the Django Reinhardt-influenced 'After Hours' and the humorous title track are just the cherry on a rich, delicious and moreish many-layered musical cake!