Wednesday 26 July 2017

Oh, for Pete's sake! Yes, Doherty's back

Troubled troubadour, ex smack-head, one-time fiance of Kate Moss, Pete Doherty isn't a fake, writes our music critic. And he has a new album...

The real deal: Pete Doherty isn't just playing at being a rock star
The real deal: Pete Doherty isn't just playing at being a rock star
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Say what you like about Pete Doherty (ex-junkie hellion, wasted talent, permanently and worryingly pale libertine) but he is a character in an industry full of careerists playing at being rock stars. He isn't - in a word - a fake.

Ingrid Sischy summed it up best at the time in a profile in New York's Interview magazine in 2004: "People like Pete Doherty are the reason why generation gaps exist. Having emerged three years ago as the front man for the London-based rock band the Libertines, which he led with his friend Carl Barat, Doherty quickly became the most visible face for a group of British musicians who were raging against the success of easy-listening soft-rock bands like Coldplay, striving to make music that spoke more directly, more urgently, and more viscerally to kids sick of bopping to Yellow alongside their parents."

Doherty was the anathema of the vanilla of the times. He preferred something stronger than vanilla, clearly.

Jonathan Heaf tells the story in British GQ magazine of sitting on the floor at a gig in Nottingham in 2002 when "in swayed Pete Doherty and asked if I had any tinfoil as he wanted to 'boil an egg'." Quite.

The shambolic Lord Byron of indie with a skewed view of personal indestructibility is, still, someone with quite a compelling, nay entertaining, grasp of the English language. "Each man kills the things he loves", he once said. "I recognise that in myself, in relationships, even with guitars, beautiful things that I've had and wilfully destroyed."

His ex, Ms Moss perhaps got out at precisely the right moment. He described that infamous relationship as having ended, unsurprisingly, "nastily". You could also add in quotes from him like, "The more that you follow me, the more I get lost".

Lost might be a good way to describe Hamburg Demonstrations (recorded in Hamburg with Johann Scheerer of Bosnian Rainbows/Gallon Drunk renown behind the production console), Doherty's solo follow-up to 2009's Grace/Wastelands.

The feel of the album is nothing less than impromptu and demo-like, even patchy: for instance, I Don't Love Anyone (But You're Not Just Anyone) - seguing into When Johnny Comes Marching Home - appears in two different forms. Okay, being professional and being Pete Doherty are two genuinely alien concepts.

Be that as it may, opening song Kolly Kibber ("thrown from the ghost train, into the beautiful briny sea"), Down For The Outing ("Ah, Britannia somehow she was saved"), and the Amy Winehouse homage Flags Of The Old Regime ("I don't want to die any more/Any more than I did want to die before") are some brilliant pieces of almost vintage Doherty.

That said, the latter was written some years ago, as he said in an interview in 2012: "I've written a song about Amy for my new album, called Flags From The Old Regime. I've never done a song like it. It's very slow and melodic. I've also got lots of lovely video footage of me and her just being together. But I haven't been able to watch it yet."

Doherty also revealed in that interview what was probably a badly kept secret anyway... "This is difficult for me to admit. But, yes, it's true. Amy and I were lovers. I loved her then and, well, I still do today, But towards the end, as only lovers can, she became quite mean and cruel to me. She didn't suffer fools."

At his best, and those moments are increasing rare these days or indeed any days, Doherty briefly stops thinking that his legacy won't be as the smack-head troubadour who once dated English model Kate Moss.

Let's hope that's not the case and Doherty is not remembered as someone who threw - or shot up - his genius all away.

What a waster?

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