So, it’s in – the first copy (it actually says “001” on it) of Pete Doherty’s (as-yet untitled) solo album – and we’ve got all the deets about one of the most eagerly-anticipated records of the year. It’s almost exciting enough to make us momentarily forget about the prospect of a Joe Lean album in 2009.
So, after releasing two albums with The Libertines and another two with Babyshambles so far, what does the next installment in Pete’s musical career sound like?
Well, like Gorillaz. And The Coral. And The La’s. And Blur. And Bob Dylan.
The album is the most diverse album Pete has made by a long stretch. The bulk of it sees an atmospheric mix of acoustic guitar (mainly played by Graham Coxon) and strings set a keynote of tenderness and mystery – far away from the frenetic ‘Shamble-ness of ‘Fuck Forever’, ‘Pipedown’, ‘Delivery’ and the like.
But there are real curveballs that may knock Pete fans sideways – most notably the Gorrilaz-esque ‘Last Of The English Roses’ and the bizarre, snaking ‘Sweet By And By’. See below for a full track-by-track guide with video clips to give a taster of the music.
Plus see nme.com/news for the nitty-gritty, release date and the like.
Pete, Graham and producer Stephen Street in the studio
Pitter-patter drums and folk-jaunt acoustic finger-picking from Graham Coxon on this Dylan-esque opener suggest that Pete’s album could be a ‘Freewheeling Pete Doherty’-style affair. This’ll be familiar to fans who’ve forked out for Pete’s low-key London shows over the past year.
Pete playing ‘Arcadie’ at the London Royal Albert Hall, July 12, 2008
Last Of The English Roses
‘The Freewheeling Pete Doherty’? Scrunch that idea into a ball and take aim for the wastepaper basket. This, the album’s lead single, sounds like Gorillaz. Murky bass, gloopy heartbeat drums, harmonica – without Shaun Ryder popping up halfway through and drunkenly shouting “IT’S DARE!” this couldn’t be more reminiscent of the work of Damon Albarn’s ‘nana-chomping side project. Except, of course, instead of Albarn’s nonchalant croon we’ve got Pete’s somewhat more distinctive vocal effort.
The lyrics too could only really be Doherty’s, cutting gutter’n’stars contemporary references with his romanticised view of English heritage – singing about a girl who knows her “Kappas from her Reeboks” then “her Winstons from her Enochs”. So far, so completely unlike anything Pete’s ever recorded before.
An acoustic-based effort with filmic strings and an Eastern riff, apparently ‘1939 Returning’ was written with a view to getting Amy Winehouse to add some warbles to it. There’s no Wino here, no remnant of backward-looking jazz-pop, instead it’s an atmospheric swirl that fits with ‘Arcadie’ as one of the more ‘bare bones’ efforts here.
An acoustic demo of ‘1939 Returning’
A Little Death Behind The Eyes
A Scott Walker-esque string duvet sweeps over this one – has Pete been listening to ‘Scott 4’… or ‘The Age Of The Understatement’? Either way, this is the song on the album most likely to ever appear in a Bond flick, and it features a line Pete has said was written by Carl Barat: “Your boyfriend’s name was Dave, I was bold and brave, and now you’re mine”. The rogue!
The downbeat death of ‘A Little Death…’ segues wonderfully into the hungover Eastern acoustic guitar riff of ‘Salome’ – a song that’s been kicking around in the Doherty solo cannon for yonks and yonks. More strings and brutal but softly-delivered imagery (“the head of John The Baptist on a plate”, anyone?), it’s about as far from ‘Fuck Forever’ as you can get without the help of a space shuttle.
An acoustic demo of ‘Salome’
Through The Looking Glass
A song originally cooked up in during Libertines songwriting sessions in France between the Libs’ two albums, ‘Through The Looking Glass’ is the song that most resembles a full band effort on the album. A bulky-based mid-pacer, here Graham Coxon’s guitars are at their most recognisable, the overall effect being a heavy Britpop strike half-way between Babyshambles and early Blur. A possible single?
An early demo version of ‘Through The Looking Glass’
Sweet By And By
Wow. Are we in some kind of 1940s upper class tea party? Not quite, actually the tinkly piano and jazz-parp trumpets suggest we’re in a jaunty illegal whiskey den in New York, 60 years back. And maybe Pete’s had a few too many tumblers of tongue-shrivelling bourbon – towards the end of this he does sound rather… merry. Yup, this album’s eclectic.
Palace Of Bone
We don’t think James Skelly is the suing type – possibly a good thing, as ‘Palace Of Bone’, or at least the intro, is pretty Coral-tastic to say the least – ‘Pass It On’ quite literally. In reality this is probably Pete’s obsession wit The La’s becoming more prominent on this understated Liverpudlian-sounding song.
‘Palace Of Bone’ live in Paris last November
Another tender acoustic’n’piano-based effort, this time a duet between Pete and singer Dot Allison, who has joined the Babyshambler to perform it live at various solo gigs over the past year. Not quite a cousin to ‘What Katy Did’ off the Libs’ second album but at least some kind of daughter of an aunt’s sister who you know you’re related to in some way. Babyshambles’ Drew McConnell’s stand-up bass and loungey piano add depth to this sweet, drifting song.
‘Sheepskin Tearaway’ live
Broken Love Song
Remember Wolfman? ‘For Lovers’, from 2004? He is credited with co-writing this. An earlier version was recorded with producer Jake Fior, but this new effort features Wolfy on guitar, building a creeping bass path to a blustering chorus – “They are the loneliest” repeated on possibly the most prominent hook on an album which, as Pete has said himself, is a rather uncommercial effort.
New Love Grows On Trees
From the blustery ‘Broken Love Song’ back to a cinematic bass-sweep’n’acoustic-tied effort. An air raid siren moans in mournfully over one of the more lyrically deft songs on the album, Pete singing, “Are you still talking to, All of those dead film stars, like you used to?/And are you still thinking of, all of those pretty rhymes/And perfect crimes, like you used to love?”. This had been kicking around the Libs and ‘Shambles canon for a while before Pete decided to use it here.
An early acoustic version of ‘New Love Grows On Trees’
Lady, Don’t Fall Backwards
An understated two-and-a-half minutes of acoustic guitar and echoing Richard Hawley-esque electric guitar meandering in the background to close the album. Here Pete gets all romantic – “Every giro day dress me like a ladyboy… if we make love in the morning I see your eyes look like two marbles in your head”. A downbeat organ, “Come on fall into my arms” repeated over the final strum, and that’s Pete’s solo album done.