Monday, 16 March 2009

Peter Doherty - Grace/Wastelands (EMI 2009)

Remember when Pete Doherty made music? Well, he finally has. Ha- hilarious tabloid joke over and done with, what else to update you on the Doherty press machine? Well, to separate himself from Pete Doherty=junkie, we get PeterR Doherty=troubadour. This is PeteR Doherty’s first solo album, a collection of songs that have been knocking about for years for the discerning Doherty curator. They’ve now been recorded proper-like, away from the hiss and crackle of the Dictaphone, by Stephen Street and Graham Coxon weighing in with some delicate guitars and flourishes that bring the songs out from their lo-fi beginnings. This is PeteR Doherty playing for his fans, knowing he’s given them a rough ride the last few years, becoming a superstar for the wrong reasons, gravitating away from the people’s hero that rose to giddy heights helming The Libertines, which was a band for the fans, happy to engage and interact and honour their diehard core army. These songs have been knocking about for a while, and so, given the studio treatment, they become PeteR as the fans want him, mostly intimate and acoustic and mournful, whipping them up into delirious fervour with his every emotive drawl. This won’t be the cross-over album that endears him to a press that vilified him. Instead, it gives his fans little more than a thank-you. Many songs are all set at plod-tempo, or ‘mournfullo’ (meaning ‘slow enough for long drawn-out vocals and quiet instrumental breakdowns for full emotional caterwauling’. Songs that don’t play mournfullo hit novelty tempos, with some forays into white boy reggae, and gypsy jazz. For all PeteR’s heartwrenching, he hasn’t lost his wry sense of humour or melody. The lyrics vaguely celebrate all PeteR’s favourite topics, decadence, freedom, libertines, lost love and outsider-status. There is a deep swooning romanticism on show here, poignant and fun and beautiful all at once, as PeteR now sounds fragile, the morning after, full of sorrow and regret. The acoustic guitar shimmies and canters like ‘Radio USA’ from the first Libertines album, the melodies veer between mournful folk and Kinksy fun. Single ‘Last of the English Roses’ builds a beautiful pace with lilting strings and an almost dub-like explosion of sound twinkles in the background, as an off-beat skank celebrates a bubbling beat. This is an album for the fans, one that redeems him, ultimately it’s a curate’s egg, a bit like ‘The Watchmen’ film- one for the fanboys who have scoured the internet for every crackly half-arsed mp3, who finally get to hear the finished studio version, which in effect neuter’s the thisness of the recordings, but at least Doherty’s back on track and has finished up his half-arsed body of work since he left the Libertines, and hopefully his next one will be the one.


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