Review ·

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. Doherty’s done the same in the span of seven years.

 

Grace/Wastelands is ostensibly the most involved Doherty has been in recording an album since (presumably) the Libertines’ debut, Up the Bracket. He’s reportedly quit the junk and decided to refocus himself fully onto music. The fact that he recorded the final Libertines album (2004’s The Libertines) and put out two mostly terrible albums as Babyshambles without really doing much besides sporadically showing up to record vocals makes that not exactly a high hurdle.

 

New collaborator Graham Coxon, he of Blur, and second-time producer Stephen Street (who produced Babyshambles’ sophomore album, Shotter’s Nation, along with albums by Blur, the Smiths, and others), apparently decided that what Doherty was missing on those Babyshambles albums wasn’t decent hooks, riffs that measured up to his old band, or any cohesion. No, Street and Coxon decided Doherty needed 12 tracks of acoustic pop sheen that would allow him to play the boho poet that he’s considered himself since before he started shooting up. And it essentially exposes Doherty’s biggest weaknesses: his trite lyrics, his less than perfect voice, and his inability to sound interested in anything he’s doing not under the title "Libertines."

 

Main single “Last of the English Roses” is the set’s highlight. Its sub-Gorillaz folk-pastiche provide the album with its lone musical fireworks with Doherty hiccuping the lyrics over the on/off switch acoustic guitars like he needs a glass of water. It’s more languid than of Doherty’s past successes, but the guy has slowed down, after all.

 

From there, things progressively get worse. “1939 Returning” finds Doherty trying to draw some connection between 2009 and 1939 that never makes sense (apparently reading TV Guide and getting bombed line up to him). The rote tale of “Salome” (she of New Testament fame) is recast as a dig track at some undetermined woman, and Doherty fails to provide the vocal pyrotechnics that the swaying orchestral-leaning music on “Broken Love Song” and “New Love Grows on Trees” demand (although, “New Love” does feature some of Doherty’s most coherent lyrics, which are about him pleading with an old flame over whether or not they should carry out the suicide pact they promised each other).

 

But no offense is greater than “Sweet By and By,” which has Doherty emoting over a piano lounge backing track like he’s a bit player trying to get into the pants of one of the cast members on Sex and the City. It would make sense as a parody, but considering Doherty spends most of the album presenting himself as a poet, it seems like an elaborate joke on Pete and/or us.

 

Doherty may be in the best health of his professional career these days, but Grace/Wastelands marks the worst health of his music. On past, post-Libertine releases Doherty, however momentarily, showed flashes of the energetic and ruthless songcrafting ability that made him a vital part of the two-headed monster that was him and Carl Barat. Grace/Wastelands doesn’t show that even for a minute. It’s the worst album in a career that’s now got a 3:2 awful-album ratio.

 

***

Label: http://www.astralwerks.com

 

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I'm sorry but this is a cracking album

Mark

I agree Mark. I totally love it. Whoever wrote this is probably completely deaf/daft. Doubt they even listened to it.
Sorry for being so blunt, but listen to it again please. I don't mean to undermind your...er...musical listening ability or anything but I can't help but totally disagree.

Helen

No this album is pretty bad. I listened to it a bunch hoping it was just my imagination, but it's pretty rough.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

are you people absoulutly mad? this is dohertys finest work, he's at his best when it comes to acoustic. a fantasticaly shambolic review

james

I am not mad. I'm pretty even-tempered.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

Not sure you can say the lyrics are trite, pretentious, sixth-form, yes - trite, no. No-one writes lyrics quite like Doherty (good or bad) in this he's his own man. True enough he fails more often than not but he does take risks.

By the way Shotter's Nation isn't mostly terrible, its mostly ordinary, with a couply of highlights. Down in Albion, on the other hand, is a real shocker - and I'm a fan.

JP

So, I can't write that stuff because you don't agree? Good to know. I'll contact you when I write my next review.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

Oh and another thing if you spent as much time listening to his album than tryin to use clever terminology you would of liked it, you need to spend less time on wikipedia and more time understanding that words dont always define a person!!!

Shaun

What?

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

More fool you andross. You have a nievaty of knowledge to good music and poetry!!! This album is very well put together and you can tell everyone involved has put real thought into it. It highlights petes tormented genius. I have just seen Pete and Cox at newcastle acadamy and to hear some of these songs performed live was nothing less than magical!!!

shaun

" “1939 Returning” finds Doherty trying to draw some connection between 2009 and 1939 that never makes sense (apparently reading TV Guide and getting bombed line up to him)."

You, sir, are an idiot. Either spend some more time trying to work out the connection like most people did or if you're lazy (which I suspect you are) read Alexis Petridis' review of the album in the Guardian. I'm not any sort of obsessive fan of Doherty but I at least take the time to work out what he's trying to say before I'd think about dismissing it.

And before you respond with another "So, I can't write that stuff because you don't agree?", you're welcome to write whatever you want but if you ever want anyone to take your opinion seriously then you ought to put some more thought into it.

garreth

That hurt my feelings.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

ur scarcasm is an obvious cover for ur inability to realise a genious at work!this album will certainly live longer than ur cheep attempts at reviewing something you obviously do not understand!! you're an 'offence' album reviews world wide!!HOW VERY DARE YOU!

devo

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