- 29 Apr 19
Powerful if uneven effort from cult indie icon.
Hard to believe maybe, but it has been almost 20 years since Peter Doherty unleashed his brand of decadent, gutter rock ‘n’ roll upon the world with The Libertines’ 2002 debut, Up The Bracket. Since then, whether with The Libertines or Babyshambles, Doherty has provided moments of extraordinary brilliance (‘Fuck Forever’ is untouchable) with bizarre personal troubles that threatened to overshadow the music and make him a tabloid superstar in the worst sense. As a result, perhaps, his output down the years has been frustratingly inconsistent and live performances hit-and-miss.
Peter Doherty And The Puta Madres is the singer-songwriter’s latest project, born out of the ashes of Babyshambles. The good news is that this self-titled debut features some of the best material of the frontman’s career. Produced by Jai Stanley and engineered by Dan Cox (Thurston Moore, Florence & The Machine, Tom Odell), it was recorded in Étretat, Normandy over four days in the summer of 2018 – and it is an immediate and refreshingly unpolished piece of work. In an era of heavily processed, metronomic rock and pop, there is a terrific live – and human – quality to the production of Peter Doherty And The Puta Madres: you can hear a genuine, physical groove in the rhythms, and the electricity of a live band, qualities that are desperately missed in so much contemporary production.
The band is made up of Doherty’s erstwhile musical cohorts from his solo tours, and they provide him with an eclectic musical canvas against which to craft his evocative tales. Doherty displays an impressive musical range here, from the Cajun blues stylings of ‘Buck Punk Bonafide’ (the kind of track The Rolling Stones would have covered had it been written decades ago) to the organ-driven ’60s psychedelia of ‘Who’s Been Having You Over’.
‘All St Sea’ is a powerful, rambunctious opener that shares some of the unbridled spirit and energy of Doherty’s previous bands – but the best is yet to come. Brilliant debut single ‘Paradise Is Under Your Nose’ is a rare, delicate country ballad co-written by Trampolene singer-guitarist and sometime Doherty bandmate, Jack Jones. Elsewhere, the truly stunning ‘Someone Else To Be’ is a highlight, melodically referencing Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ (well, to these ears!), and powerfully quotes Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’: “Please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock n’ roll band”. It might just be good advice.
The second half of the record is less compelling. Maybe they’ll grow on me with time, but on tracks like ‘Lamentable Ballad of Gascony Avenue’ or on ‘A Fool There Was’, his vocals are so mannered, it feels like there’s something tongue-in-cheek to his delivery. Is he being sincere or satirical with the cockney rebel imagery? I just don’t know. Regardless, when it is good, Peter Doherty And The Puta Madres is a real breath of fresh air, an album that doesn’t trade on the dysfunction that marred his prior groups.
Here Doherty is backed by a skilled band who temper his tendency towards the shambolic. For the most part, this is a richly musical and at times surprisingly tender effort – a hugely rewarding listen punctuated with irresistible moments of songwriting beauty.