Release Date: Mar 24, 2009
Record label: Astralwerks
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Pete Doherty is famously a fan of the traditional British sitcom: he has referenced The Likely Lads, taken the stage to Steptoe and Son's theme tune and this, his debut solo album, concludes with a song named after Lady Don't Fall Backwards, the unfinished whodunnit that drove the Lad Himself to distraction in Hancock's Half Hour. So perhaps it's fitting that Doherty's own career now bears a resemblance to the most traditional British sitcom: Last of the Summer Wine. Given the climate, you might have expected it to have been axed years ago, but against all odds it still seems to be trudging on.
Doherty revisits the glory days of his former band but doesn't try to relive them, even when he digs into his bag of tunes for "New Love Grows on Trees," a Libertines-era tune with the knowing line "If you're still alive when you're 25, should I kill you like you asked me to?" The song is more smoky and evocative than a Libs-like fiery outburst; similarly, "Arcadie" sounds wistful for the ideals of a few years ago, but Doherty sings with the knowledge that they are just ideals. The single "The Last of the English Roses" feels doubly nostalgic, its lyrics providing Doherty's older-but-wiser take on young emotions and its haunting melodica line recalling Blur's dub fetish. Aside from the narcotic love song "Sheep Skin Tearaway," Grace/Wastelands is some of Doherty's least overtly autobiographical music; instead, the album offers lots of stories and literary allusions, nodding to Oscar Wilde ("Broken Love Song") and the Bible (the gorgeously melodic "Salome").
Somehow amid all the tabloid baiting, Pete (sorry, ”Peter”) Doherty still finds time for songwriting. On his first solo CD, Grace/Wastelands, he conjures an understated and fantastical vision of his homeland in which jazzy meditations on the 1930s bump up against haunted fairy-tale folk. B+ Download This: Listen to the song ”Last of the English Roses” on last.fm See all current music reviews from EW .
Though The Libertines split what seems like an age ago now, the rinky-dink Dickensian punk self-mythology dreamt up by Pete Doherty and Carl Barât proved itself remarkably enduring. Even two years ago a surly teen uneasily trying to rock one of those daft guardsman’s jackets wasn’t an uncommon sight at summer festivals, while the dust has only really just settled on the days when otherwise perfectly reasonable people (mostly music journalists, admittedly) would blather on about ‘Biggles’, ‘Bilo’ and ‘the good ship Albion’ without feeling even slightly silly about themselves. But settle the dust has.
For the most part of the 21st Century, Pete(r) Doherty has been seen as something of a joke in the UK. He’s better known for his various misdemeanours than his recorded output, he spends time with people who are a negative influence, drugs are involved and he’s always wearing that stupid thing on top of his head. So far, so Winehouse, but the comparison only stretches so far.
Eminem said it best: "Tired of people saying they're tired of hearing me rap about drugs. " I'd certainly prefer to think of a more original way to introduce a Pete Doherty solo album, but it's not like he's left me much choice. And besides, "tired" shows up twice as much as "drugs," because it's really exhaustion that defines following Doherty: Either you're tired of the questionable appendage of "genius" to "smack-addled," or you're tired of nearly everything Doherty's done since Up the Bracket being a vehicle for laments on how far off the grid he's gone.
Pete Doherty’s solo debut, Grace/Wastelands, sounds exactly like a fat Elvis record or a 1970s/'80s Frank Sinatra record. It’s the sound of a once domineering (some may even say generation-defining) performer raising his hands and deciding to get by as a character-less crooner making money off what he once was. In the cases of Elvis and Sinatra, they had a few decades on top before becoming walking punch lines.
Embodying a 30-year-old Keith Richards on Grace/Wastelands' meaty special-edition DVD, the former "Pete" Doherty reveals the same English vulnerability all that infamy masked. Songs are sacred, even the offhanded ones; voices true heart. Largely unplugged, with the steel-string addition of Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, Doherty's initial release under his own name ruminates rather than rocks, as did his bands the Libertines and Baby Shambles, but then solo debuts, beginning with 1970's McCartney, generally lay themselves bare.