Pete Doherty | Grace/Wasteland (Astralwerks)

cd_pete-doherty.jpgWhen guitar does emerge at the forefront, it almost feels out of place, causing the listener to yearn for Doherty’s past catalog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In his handful of years in the music spotlight, Pete Doherty has endured his share of press, largely unfavorable. As you may remember, Doherty started out as one-half of the songwriting team behind The Libertines, surely one of the most talented acts to have emerged from Britain in the past decade. Toward the end of the Libs’ career, as Doherty’s behavior began to spiral out of control (drugs, no-shows, even a break-in of his apartment), co-writer and vocalist Carl Barat was forced to remove him for the band’s 2004 U.S. tour, at the conclusion of which he dissolved the band. (Barat then went on to form his own side project, Dirty Pretty Things, which of course wasn’t as good as The Libertines, either. Following two releases, Barat quietly dissolved that band last year.)

Doherty then threw himself headfirst into his side project, Babyshambles, which, although it spawned a few noteworthy singles and continued the reign of Doherty-mania, still found the troubled singer-songwriter missing gigs due to intoxication. Throughout this time, the tabloids were ruthless, picking up every infraction: drug use/crack addition, rehab, arrest, court appearances, etc. His then-relationship with supermodel Kate Moss—also drawn into Doherty’s world of drug use, resulting in her being dropped by many of the companies she endorsed—contributed to the near-constant observation; even The New York Times ran frequent updates on his behavior.

A couple years later—enough to remove him from the obsessive public eye—and Doherty has returned with Grace/Wasteland, the first release under his own name. The stakes were high; could he make a record strong enough to throw some dirt over past infractions?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Listeners used to the fast-paced pop-tinged rock of Doherty’s past projects may be let down—if not outright bored—by the solo effort. The 13 tracks here are mellow and laidback, hearkening to an older time when music was simpler and inoffensive. (Is it just ironic that one of the songs is entitled "1939 Returning"?) In other words, this is a CD your mom is destined to like.

Grace/Wasteland applies classic instruments not found on any of the artist’s previous releases, including a hearty dose of strings plus horns, tambourines and lots of piano. When guitar does emerge at the forefront (as in the bridge to "Through the Looking Glass"), it almost feels out of place, causing the listener to yearn for Doherty’s past catalog.

If you’re a diehard fan, Grace/Wasteland is going to be a must-have whether it lives up to expectations or not. But if you’re a disenfranchised Libertines fan who snapped up Babyshambles releases in the (unmet) hope of a return to greatness, you’re certainly not going to be satisfied with Doherty’s first solo effort. This is further proof that The Libertines’ mastery resulted from the perfect collaboration of Barat and Doherty; apart, it is painfully apparent that the two halves are far from the sum of their whole. C- | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Your parents’ record collection

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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