You’d have to be some sort of a secluded madman to not know about this man. To summarise: he was in the Libertines, developed a crack and heroin habit, the band split up, he started his own band called Babyshambles, missed many a gig for a number of reasons (arrests, car accidents, drug induced erratic behaviour), started dating Kate Moss, appears in the courts on a weekly basis, goes into a number of rehab centres and clinics, split up from Kate Moss. The cycle is on-going and endless. I think he’s been in The Sun everyday for the last two years.
Most recently he was filmed on a camera phone injecting smack along with the helpful newspaper demanding that he be imprisoned for “his own good” immediately. The journalist (for want of a better word) failed to mention that prison is probably the easiest place in Britain to actually get drugs. But that’s another matter entirely, “we’ve had enough”, the Sun proclaimed. Well easy then, don’t write about him in your rag, for fuck’s sake. I’m no major Doherty fan, but you can’t deny that he deserves a little more privacy than he’s had over the last few years.
But, somewhere along the line people had forgotten that he actually is a musician. And I don’t want to dwell on any of that infamous bullshit, but it’s just almost impossible to separate the two as far as the music is concerned. Some of the songs quite obviously are about smack or Kate or both. So I guess I’ll have to discuss it at some point… I just don’t have the energy to right now… I’m as bored of Doherty as I am bored of the search for Little Maddie (sorry abductee fans).
What is on display here is something a little different from the Babyshambles norm. Gone is the poetic and musical druggie insouciance of his previous album, Down in Albion. This is all-together a far more upbeat record firmly anchored in poppy indie rock. The sound is more akin to what Babyshambles displayed on their Blinding EP. Loud and clear song structures, a confident voice and some catchy tunes. This in part may be due to the production skills of Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur). No doubt this is also a by-product of his major record deal with Regal/EMI.
There is also a sense that Doherty is more with it than in the past, as if he has a point to prove to Down in Albion’s detractors. He sings confidently, with passion and aplomb his lyrics which seem to be more positive than in the past, yet have lost some of their poetic glory. It’s a more concise and musical Doherty on show. But overall, I think it suits him for the better – those whimsical tunes should be left for either the B-Sides, or to develop further into fully-formed songs.
First single ‘Delivery’ is perhaps the best example of what I am attempting to explain. The song is possibly one of the best examples of modern indie-rock out there. It’s driving, catchy and worthy of repeated listens. Yes it isn’t very original, but what music has been over the last few years. But anyway, it is a great radio-friendly tune, that will make many of those who loved the Libertines in the first place fall back in love with Doherty’s song-writing skills.
Elsewhere there are other strong tunes such as ‘Unbilo Titled’, on the current dealings of a certain Mr Wolfman whom fans will remember, while ‘You Talk’ also stinks of repeated radio airplay. ‘Lost Art of Murder’ and ‘Carry on Up the Morning’ are also very strong. Thematically, the album is the usual Doherty fare – his life and friends. There are clearly echoes of his past relationship to Kate Moss and the fallout from that, as well as self-critical and analytical asides to his drug addicition. We didn’t expect any less. For those less aware of Doherty’s writing style – this may come as a shock or at the very least a bore. After all, we all know about the intricacies of his life already thanks to the Tabloid newspapers and the “Smash Hits for Students” (a.k.a. the NME).
Other songs are less strong, ‘Side of the Road’ leaves one a little underwhelmed and ‘French Dog Blues’ sounds like it could actually be amazing but it frustratingly fails to live up to the song’s obvious possible greatness. A little more time and it could have been one of the standout songs of the album and possibly his musical career so far.
Overall this is an good to excellent album, which firmly reintroduces the idea of Peter Doherty: musician and song-writer. Ultimately, this is the album’s greatest achievement. I can actually point people towards these tunes as proof of his talent. This gives music and Doherty fans everywhere ammunition to counter the argument that he’s a washed up druggie. More importantly it gives us music fans renewed hope that one of the most talented lyricists and musicians of the noughties hasn’t completely pissed his talent up the wall.