The now-unabbreviated Jack The Lad of English music has returned with his second solo album and his eighth overall once you include his work with The Libertines and Babyshambles. His first, Up The Bracket, was a defining album for me at University. The Libertines were at the forefront of a resurgence of Indie music and Pete Doherty was held up as a flag bearer for the movement. He was a young, talented British songwriter capable of the anthemic dynamism of Don't Look Back Into The Sun and the touching sentimentality of Music When The Lights Go Out.
To cut a very long story short, things went downhill. What started out as a tolerable arrogance quickly turned into something quite nasty. I remember the exact moment I lost a lot of the respect I had for Doherty – Live8. On a day of celebration where the world was watching what positive political action could achieve, Doherty strutted out with lighter in mouth and performed an inexcusably abysmal version of T-Rex's Children Of The Revolution to the bemusement of everyone involved. Doherty became like the kid at your school who was a bit better than everyone else at football so never really tried very hard, instead spending his time banging on about how his Uncle was getting him a trial at Tottenham.
The time has now come for Doherty to address that period in his life and it is fair to say that he looks back with a lot of regret, both for himself and the people around him. Opening track Kolly Kibber tells us that 'heavenly forms lead to devilish woes'. In Birdcage and The Whole World Is Our Playground, he speaks of another person who succumbed to the influence of others. Doherty adopts the role of leader and follower, taking an element of responsibility for the consequences he has imposed on his life and the lives of those around him. In Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven, he even goes so far as to liken being a musician to being a soldier. Either way, so it seems to Doherty, you will do things that you have to answer for later.
There is a heartfelt tribute to the late Amy Winehouse in Flags From The Old Regime, a track originally released in early 2015. It is hard not to also see this track as self-referential though. Having seen his good friend succumb to such a tragic fate, witnessing her broken by the very things that have so troubled his life, it must be hard not to question your own destiny.
On the whole, the album sounds great. Doherty seems more comfortable in his own skin than I have seen him in a long time. Although it may not be the second coming that some of his fans have wanted and anticipated for so long, it feels like a good start. It also feels like a necessary step, a cathartic purge of all that has gone before so that future albums can transcend to bigger and better things unburdened by the past.
It does at times feel a little bit self-indulgent, almost like Doherty is trying to distance himself from the things that he has done. Taken in its entirety though, there is a truth here that cannot be ignored. His arrogance has returned to the persona of troubled poet as opposed to self-appointed deity and that is one that I can live with. There is a charm to this album and, more surprisingly, there is a latent humility. Doherty is back being a beer mat balladeer and that's very much where I'd like him to stay.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron, after all...
Lyric Of The Week
“I won't be blindly led//
No lion by a donkey”
Down For The Outing
Wayward son returns, once more
Brighton is rocking
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