This record is not the classic many believe Doherty has the potential to create, yet it is a step in the right direction. Progressing from ‘…Albion’ and retaining the best elements of The Libertines records, yet remaining an individual record.
Much is said about Pete Doherty, tabloid readers tend to write him off as a druggy almost has been, who revels all the attention he draws from the British public, and on the other hand, some see him as a sad tortured genius, who is as misunderstood as the teenagers who adore him.
I don't know the man, so I cannot possibly tell you which side of the coin comes up trumps, all I decide to make my decisions about him, is the way he presents himself through music. Which honestly, is all that will matter in a few years. No one thinks of drug abuse when talking about Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones or countless other notable artists. I think they just expect his lifestyle will destroy him, and they are all baying for the first photos and loud, proud ''I Told You So's'' which will resound around the country from playgrounds to pubs.
Pete Doherty found fame with The Libertines, in which he shared song writing duties with Carl Barat. Competition was fierce when this record was released, and everyone felt they had too have a favourite between Dirty Pretty Things and Babyshambles. Personally, I find that Barat's group's more rock based approach with more anthemic guitar based tracks was a step back from his work with the Libertines, and although Babyshambles are flawed, Pete's song writing had become more gentle, and the musical direction had allowed him to stretch himself, and write more confessionally, than the largely narrative Libertines work.
Their first record, released in 2005 was a gentle affair, according to Doherty, it was a concept record based on beauty and the beast. A much sweeter theme than you would expect from the terror standing awkwardly in black clothes with pale skin, this drug guzzling beast. That record reminded us of who Pete Doherty really was, he was a very intelligent man, who had won awards for his poetry and was touring them from his mid teens. A man dearly in love, who wrote some very tender love songs for The Libertines, before things turned sour, and the spotlight lead him to introspection, and confession.
And so this is how the new record begins, with Pete taking on the rather tired rock n roll subject of fame. “In the morning where does all the pain go"” this song is a mid tempo rock track, but without the stomp of Dirty Pretty Things, it maintains its atmosphere and integrity. Greatly shaped by Mick Jones’s typified production, of comparatively ramshackle performances, with talking and improvisation caught at the beginning and ending of the tapes. What made the first record so intimate, could have been lost. A more mainstream producer who has worked with the likes of The Smiths, Blur and more recently Kaiser Chiefs. I was worried that this meeting of minds, along with now being signed to parlophone records could have lead too a sound too mainstream to suite the band. However, he has found just the right middle ground, making it sound like a more instant, and sounding more finished than ‘Down in Albion’.
Although in the case of notorious drug abuser, and past punk rocker, Sid Vicious, everyone watched as a fool destroyed himself. However, it is harder to watch Pete Doherty head down similar tracks, because there is true musical and lyrical talent within. His skill of writing, which has been a passion of his from a young age, mixed with his love and understanding of pop music, should lead too the creation of a truly classic record. This certainly isn’t that record, and personally, I don’t think that it’s the drugs that are stopping him making the record everyone hopes for. More likely, too much attention being placed on his personal life has lead to him believing the hype. Making him feel that his life is interesting enough, without much metaphor, or emotional detail being put into play. His personal feelings are plundered well enough on the record however, ‘Deft Left Hand’ is a yearning heartbreaker wishing for the company of an old spouse, likely too be his celebrity ex girlfriend, supermodel Kate Moss. I can really relate too these lyrics, as they speak of mundane activities, with good company. Something we all experience, and this song really expresses the joy of this, rather than the sorrow of losing someone, with its danceable tune and upbeat tempo.
One unusual element of this record, is the way tunes from other songs are used blatantly, not since rock n roll was first reaching the UK was this so blatantly flaunted, and passable. The instantly recognisable bass line too ‘Love Cats’ by the Cure sticks out like a crows nest hairs cut and smudged lips would in an indie group from this side of the century. Fan favourite ‘Lost art of murder’ follows a guitar line with more than passing resemblance to busker favourite ‘Redemption song’, however, Pete tells his story so sad, it doesn’t put the classic tune’s theme of slavery and freedom too shame. Used as an effective metaphor for the suffering he has felt. It has also been a long wait through the record for an acoustic number, ‘…Albion’ had an almost even mix, however, the upbeat tempo of the record is well maintained, and it doesn’t get boring, whereas the first record would definitely have missed them.
The more upbeat sounds of this record, show a band that is growing. Who is becoming a more formidable, and more reliable live band. With these new songs, the crowd will spend less time gazing into Pete’s big eyes, and more time dancing together. A likely result of a band much happier with working together.
This record is not the classic many believe Doherty has the potential to create, yet it is a step in the right direction. Progressing from ‘…Albion’ and retaining the best elements of The Libertines records, yet remaining an individual record which would not be a bad starting point for anyone who wants to learn about Doherty the way you should, not from some hag rag, but from his music, and his own words.