Monday 22 October 2018

CD Reviews: Pete delivers


Shotter's Nation (Parlophone) * * * *

Here comes an album better than even Pete Doherty's biggest fan could have expected and one to confound his growing number of critics. His old band The Libertines suggested some talent -- but both albums were wildly over-praised. And his debut Babyshambles album, Down In Albion, was unlistenable tosh full of schoolboy lyrics and ramshackle music - jerk-off songs in desperate need of a tune.

This follow-up could hardly be more different. It's focused, with lots of proper songs and thrills abound. Stephen Street -- producer of seminal albums from The Smiths and Blur -- is at the helm here and he's got Doherty to clean up his act, musically at least.

The album is full of references to drugs, not least in the title: "Shotter" is slang for drug dealer. There are also none-too-subtle pointers towards Doherty's tempestuous relationship with Kate Moss. Yet, the self-pity that afflicted previous work is largely absent here and that makes for a much more palatable listen.

Unlike the last Babyshambles album, this one is the sound of a proper band, not just hired hands going through the motions for "Crazy Pete". Mick Whitnell's guitars sparkle throughout -- not least on the lean lead single Delivery -- while the bass guitar of Dublin-born Drew McConnell pops up in all the right places.

The closing track, Lost Art Of Murder, is the best song, and consequently the finest thing Pete Doherty has ever done. It's a plaintive, sparsely-arranged acoustic number featuring a contribution from British guitar veteran Bert Jansch and boasts lyrics free of Doherty's hitherto trademark guff. "She won't take you back/ Said too much, been too unkind/ Get up off your back/ Stop smoking that/ Change your life, she just might change her mind." No prizes for guessing who that's directed at.

Burn it: Delivery; Unbilo Titled; Lost Art Of Murder

Jens Lekman

Night Falls Over Kortedala (Secretly Canadian) * * * * *

The Swedish singer is a singular talent and this marvellous second album is set to cement his reputation. The tracks are lushly arranged and delivered in the style of a vintage-era Scott Walker. There are plenty of love songs here, but they sound very different to the conventional love song. Just listen to the gorgeous Sipping On The Sweet Nectar.

Shirim may be the first song to reference hairdressing since Morrissey's sardonic Hairdresser On Fire. An ode to a clippers queen, it also manages to be a curiously affecting anti-war song. Intrigued? You should be.

Undoubtedly, Lekman's music can fall dangerously close to cloying territory, but his eccentric romanticism wins the day. Oh, and his ability to pen songs that get under the skin and stay there.

Burn it: Shirim; Sipping On The Sweet Nectar; A Postcard To Nina

Edwyn Collins

Home Again (Heavenly) * * * *

In February 2005, Collins -- a former member of influential Glasgow band Orange Juice and lately a producer for hire for some of Britain's most talented bands -- suffered a stroke. It was so severe, few expected him to make a recovery but six months later he was rehabilitated enough to start picking up the pieces of his life.

One of the first things he returned to was this album -- written and partially recorded in 2004. Home Again seems eerily prescient of the fate that would befall its creator because it's full of songs that take a look over a life well lived as well as conjuring up the memories of childhood that stay with us.

It does this magnificently. The beguiling title track can stand alongside anything Collins wrote in the past and Leviathan is a touching portrait of the picturesque Scottish district of Helmsdale and what it means to him. Although written before falling ill, Collins would spend much time there recouperating.

Burn it: Home Again; Leviathan

The Go! Team

Proof of Youth (Memphis Industries) * * *

As if eight members of this shouty, frenetic-happy collective weren't enough, the band have recruited some choice collaborators for this album that entertains and irritates in equal measure. Public Enemy legend Chuck D appears on one of the better tracks -- the bonkers Flashlight Flash, a song that's the match of anything on this lot's acclaimed debut angle.

Our favourite Brazilian, Marina Vello from Bonde Do Role, adds some glitz to Keys To The City.

But Proof Of Youth is migraine-inducing stuff too -- there's too much going on in current single Grip Like A Vice for it to satisfy on a coherent level. And Doing It Right is ideal for those who like to hear marching bands cranked up the nth degree.

Burn it: Flashlight Flash

Annie Lennox

Songs of Mass Destrucion (Arista) * * *

The ex-Eurythmics singer's fourth album is austere and pompous in places and inspired in others.

Dark Road is open to interpretation. Is it concerned with a failed love affair? Or is it about Europeans' love/hate relationship with America? It's an ambiguity that works well.

Sing -- a collaboration with 23 major female singers may be a vanity project that shows off the size of Lennox's contacts book -- but it is a wonderful show-stopper that works remarkably well.

Burn it: Sing

Future Kings of Spain

Nervousystem (Red Flag Recordings) * * *

The Dublin-based Kings are well established on the domestic circuit thanks to a fine debut album and a willingness to tour often and well. This follow-up -- which was delayed for over a year due to record company problems -- is not as impressive as their early calling card but it still has moments of pure quality. Kick In The Teeth is surely a conteder for Irish single of the year. Guitars are aplenty and Joey Wilson's astute lyrics have bite.

There's a song called 1981, but the Flaws got in there first with this title and theirs is better.

Burn it: Kick In The Teeth

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