Peter Doherty – Grace/Wastelands (2009)

Peter Doherty - Grace/WastelandsPeter Doherty‘s life seemed to circling the drain, following the path of many rock star musicians who couldn’t simply just make music. The British rocker could not kick the habit.

The frontman of post-punk band Babyshambles and former frontman of defunct punk band The Libertines couldn’t help but constantly grace tabloid covers publicizing and detailing his drug abuse, legal problems, and his relationship with supermodel Kate Moss.

It seemed that Doherty could never get clean enough to satisfy his fans and their expectations, leaving the possibility that Babyshambles’ 2007 album Shotter’s Nation might have been his last.

But in autumn 2008 the wheels were put in motion for a complete solo effort and the result is Doherty’s solo debut Grace/Wastelands. Recorded at London’s Olympic Studios with producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur, Cranberries, Kaiser Chiefs), Doherty revives his musical aura with the help of Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, Scottish singer Dot Allison, poet Peter “Wolfman” Wolfe, and his Babyshambles bandmates.

The album title reveals the dichotomy of Doherty’s current state of being. On one hand, the previously troubled singer-songwriter is in a more positive juncture in his life. On the other hand, reality and the perception of reality can be wholly dissimilar. What is true is that Grace/Wastelands is a pleasant quasi-throwback to Doherty’s punk days–but more mellow–since some of the tracks were written years ago, only now existing fittingly.

Grace/Wastelands flows well, sans the irritatingly hopeful-spirited opener “Arcady.” Thankfully, the following “Last Of The English Roses” brings out Doherty’s inner Joe Strummer, accenting the subversive romance and mysterious passion of love’s effects. “1939 Returning” was a planned duet with Amy Winehouse but is instead a minimalist unreturnable love letter.

A cloud of vulnerability hangs over much of the album. There doesn’t seem to be anything left for Doherty to hide or hide from, yet it feels like he’s holding back bits and pieces. They might be inconsequential, but the declarative “I am the rain, who’s held in disdain / The truth is I’m ruthless, I can’t be contained” cries out something other than “I am the walrus.”

Grace/Wastelands can be moving at times, illuminating Doherty’s soft side as in his duet with Allison (“Sheepskin Tearaway”) or his revelatory “Broken Love Song.” Hopefully, the latest effort will stand as a cue for sunny skies ahead.

Peter Doherty (photo by Kevin Westenberg)

Peter Doherty (photo by Kevin Westenberg)

[photos via Kevin Westenberg]

Track list:

    1. Arcady
    2. Last Of The English Roses
    3. 1939 Returning
    4. A Little Death Around the Eyes
    5. Salome
    6. I Am The Rain
    7. Sweet By And By
    8. Palace Of Bone
    9. Sheepskin Tearaway
    10. Broken Love Song
    11. New Love Grows On Trees
    12. Lady Don’t Fall Backwards

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