Friday 23 August 2019

Pete, a sweet smackhead by the seaside

Pete Doherty does contemporary rock with bohemian glamour
Pete Doherty does contemporary rock with bohemian glamour
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Bohemian smackhead symphonies he has written aplenty. Still, Peter Doherty, the Rimbaud/Bauderlauire/insert your own bonkers poet of his day, knows his way around a poignant if earthy lyric.

Take What a Waster from The Libertines' 2002 album Up The Bracket: "You pissed it all up the wall/ Round the corner where they chased her/ There's tears coming out from everywhere/ The city's hard, the city's fair/ Get back inside you've got nothing on."

Or, of course, the shambling piece de resistance that is F*** Forever from The Babyshambles' 2005 album Down In Albion: "So what's the use between death and glory?/ I can't tell between death and glory/ Happy endings, no, they never bored me."

Writer Nick Kent described him a good few years ago as "a talented young songwriter whose life and career have been fatally sidetracked by drug addiction and tabloid infamy, both of which will probably end up killing him before long. He currently provides contemporary rock with a much needed dose of bohemian glamour and genuine danger, but ultimately, he's not doing anything particularly new. The ongoing role he plays out as Kate Moss's wayward romantic consort was done more convincingly in the '60s by Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg".

Of the aforesaid supermodel and ex-fiancee, the mind boggles as to whether Doherty was referring to her in a recent Guardian interview. Possibly. Possibly not. "I don't want to be shared or passed around like a f***ing tin can used as an ashtray at a party. I don't want to be a Primrose Hill dildo." When asked what is a Primrose Hill dildo, Pete replied: "Good-looking lads who make the mistake of falling in love with people who are incapable of falling in love back." Was he a Primrose Hill dildo? "I did a good impression of one for a while."

At the risk of tempting fate (no one, least of all himself, would be too surprised if Pete's blue body was found in a squat with a needle in his arm), he doesn't seem as raving mad as he used to appear.

Now 40, he is living in the English seaside town of Margate and has a new band, the Puta Madres, and a fairly good new, and self-titled, album. "If I was drug-free, I'd be a force to be reckoned with," he told The Guardian in that same interview, adding to the New Musical Express: "I'm not that messed-up arsehole." Hmmm.

The new album with the Puta Madres showcases more of Doherty's particular poetry. On Paradise Is Under Your Nose, he is imploring us thus: "Don't go too far/ Stay right where you are/ Joy is wherever you go." On Narcissistic Teen Makes First XI it's Pete telling us how he "stole no kisses, just some books and the odd cigarette". On Lamentable Ballad of Gascony Avenue, he sings: "I'd like a full English Brexit."

His 2017 album Hamburg Demonstrations featured some hauntingly lovely songs with typically Doherty turns in them; Flags Of The Old Regime ("I don't want to die any more/ Any more than I did want to die before"); and Polly Kibber ("thrown from the ghost train, into the beautiful briny sea").

Not a waster, then.

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