It’s been a long time; it’s been a long, lonely time in the life of Mr. Peter Doherty. The man has been through heartache courtesy of a dame named Moss, he was kicked out of his first band The Libertines and suffered through much publicized trials and tribulations of his never ending never ending drug habit. Throughout these troubled times, the main ingredients to Doherty’s magical muse has been missing. What happened to the poetic brilliance in his music that I have loved since his good old days as a Libertine?
Doherty’s output since his oust of The Libs has been good, bad and everything in between. Peter seems to create three minute pop gems like “Killamangiro,” “For Lovers” and “Beg Steal and Borrow” but when it comes to full-length albums with Babyshambles like Down in Albion, the results are frustratingly lacking. And this is from someone has dubbed Peter Doherty the savior of modern rock and roll. What we have heard from this reluctant liberator of rock is shades of greatness but leaves me waiting for the potential greatness he has harnessing inside of his tortured soul.
I have to admit for a while there I gave up on Pete Doherty. I have serious problems about rock stars that make the news for anything but the music they create. But it’s not just his live fast, get high and arrested reputation, but for me there were also personal reasons, from a former flame that shall remain nameless, that was keeping me from listening to musical output of his addictive soul.
I had heard that Pete was in the process of cleaning up his act again and had hired former Smiths and Blur producer Stephen Street to helm the sessions for his latest album. Nothing heals like the time and rhythms of music. So after hearing the news, I decided
if I can forgive Morrissey for standing me up me and a legion of fans at a show, once upon long ago, in Austin, Texas that I know I can give Peter a second chance.
Just like old times, I actually went out to an indie record store in Pasadena to purchase Babyshambles’ Shotter’s Nation. Any fear or doubts I had about the abilities of Peter Doherty have temporary ceased for Shotter’s is 44 minutes of righteous rhythms and memorable muse. It’s not perfect but you can hear how the work of Ex-Clash member Mick Jones failed miserably on Down in Albion. Street did Pete right by capturing the true artful soul of Doherty his band.
Things start off slow—”Carry Up the Morning” is probably the weakest track on the record. One of the problems that I have found with the `Shambles is that Doherty’s words are perfectly stripped down only with his acoustic guitar. That’s essentially what was wrong with just about all the music on Down in Albion save for “Fuck Forever” and “Albion.” The band sounded flat.
Nevertheless, things pick up with the first single “Delivery.” Now this is the song that actually should have started off the album. It has the spirit of The Libs with a new found spark that Doherty has encountered on his days and nights of excess. Most of the songs deal with turmoil, abuse or lovesick woes.
Think of Shotter’s as Albion blues with pop purity courtesy of Babyshambles’ brawn and Doherty’s unique view on life. He may be down and out but there’s hope in his voice and lyrics. He’s the anti-hero who never gives up. Listen for the guitar riffs and mighty beats on “You Talk” and especially on “Deft Left Hand.” The mixture of those stellar sounds with Doherty’s melancholy musing, “Destined to drone in a monotone on your radio is a dream of mine,” is the perfect blend of post modern pop that I have been longing to here from this poet. Some songs like “French Dog Blues” have been available for a while as demos but the finished versions bring out a new light on the group’s sound. On songs like “Baddie’s Boogie” they sound tighter, more refined, classic and nouveau in the same beat.
Two songs personify the greatness of Pete and Babyshambles, namely “There She Goes” and “The Lost Art of Murder.” The later is an acoustic classic with Bert Jansch trading licks with Pete, as Doherty lays down his aching vocal “You call yourself a killer but you’re only killing time.” These words reflect the truth behind the last few years of this troubled troubadour. “There She Goes” has a “What Katie Did” like backbeat with Doherty’s soulful vocal. Make no mistake, this lover and fighter is back from the ropes with an album worthy of his name and his legacy.
Does anything on Shotter’s best anything from Up the Bracket or The Libertines? Close, but that’s not the point. It’s like asking of any album from Harrison, Lennon or McCartney topped any work that the Beatles did during their lifetime—of course not. Unfortunately when you become an artist like Doherty has, everything you do will be compared to the outstanding output of your past glories.
At least Doherty is on his way back on the road to immortality. On “The Lost Art of Murder” Pete sings, “Do you think they’ll change their minds?” You changed mine. All I ask is to lay off the excess and continue down your path of greatness with that timeless voice as heard on the beautiful “The Lost Art” that I know and have adored for so long. I missed you mate, it’s good to have you back.