Pete Doherty's truth-in-advertising act Babyshambles sounds just like what one might expect from a drug-addled spin-off project: an erratic mix of messy ambition and indifferent sloppiness that sounds

The Libertines were one of those bands so seemingly bound for greatness that they burned off their wings even before they reached the sun. The group's debut, "Up the Bracket," combined the respective charms of the Clash and the Smiths to promising effect, but their self-titled follow-up revealed any promise would remain strictly that. Blame inevitably fell on the band's baby-faced, big-hearted bad boy half Pete Doherty, whose every self-destructive act or drug bust merely resulted in a sheepish pledge for more of the same in the immediate future.

That said, Doherty's truth-in-advertising act Babyshambles sounds just like what one might expect from a drug-addled spin-off project: an erratic mix of messy ambition and indifferent sloppiness that sounds like it's falling apart even before it really has a chance to get it together. Songs such as "F*ck Forever" and "Back From the Dead" are so clearly on the cusp of something really good that they raise a creative paradox: if Doherty cleaned up, would he still be capable of writing tracks like these? Or if he managed to free himself from his chemical shackles would he shoot right past them and finally reach the greatness once foretold? -- Joshua Klein