Monday, March 16, 2009

Peter Doherty: Grace/Wastelands

Next week sees the release of the notorious Peter Doherty's first solo album, Grace/Wastelands. However, all things being equal, the event does beg the question, what exactly is a Peter Doherty "solo" record. After all, Doherty was a major (if not the major) force behind the Libertines, and Babyshambles are undoubtedly wholly and completely driven by Doherty's creative impulse. It would seem, to the casual observer, that Doherty's solo impulse has already been fulfilled and then some. Luckily for Doherty and his new record, such is not the case.

So what exactly does Grace/Wastelands offer up that Doherty's collaborative efforts have not? In short, intimacy. To those familiar with Doherty's demo recordings (which yielded some of the songs found here), the record's feel will be immediately recognizable. The songs have an immediacy and a lyrical focus that surpasses any of Doherty's previous group work. They are more about storytelling and narrative than they are about rock and roll chaos, more about the singer and the song than they are about the band.

That being said, it would be easy to make a record that was essentially a carbon copy of Doherty's demos, with nicer mics, and better mastering. This record is most certainly not that. Between Stephen Street's production and Graham Coxon additional guitar work, the record gains character and depth that gives new life to Doherty's demos. The album opener "Arcadie" is a foray into an country-folk vibe, all warm guitars and bouncy rhythms. "A Little Death Around" the eyes almost has the feel of a Doherty-penned Bond theme. "Sweet By And By" is reminiscent of McCartney's forays into honkytonk, and "Sheepskin Tearaway" is probably the sweetest ballad Doherty's ever written. In many ways, after many listens the album's most obvious rockers, "Last Of The English Roses" and "Through The Looking Glass", are arguably the record's least necessary tracks.

For the past few years, largely driven by press controversy and Doherty's own behavior, there has been a looming question about what Peter Doherty was offering to the world of music. Some found themselves proclaiming him a genius, while others saw him as the sprawling product of a media and fame obsessed British press. We're guessing that Grace/Wastelands will serve to silence the critics. The record is an expertly subtle exploration into Doherty's songwriting, and it offers up many artful moments of lyric and melody. What's more, the record solidifies Doherty as an artist: he delivers the songs with a practiced grace and control. Chaos is completely absent here, and instead we are delivered a fantastic bunch of songs that say without compromise that Peter Doherty is here to stay.

Grace/Wastelands drops on March 24th, and is streaming in full at Doherty's MySpace page.

Stream: Peter Doherty - Grace/Wastelands


Hanan said...

nice review sir.
but I must disagree, Last of the English Roses is CLASSIC