Legendary photographer turned filmmaker Roger Sargent recently completed his documentary ‘The Libertines: There Are No Innocent Bystanders’, which takes an intimate look at the band’s 2010 reunion through NME cover shoots, rehearsals, gigs and festival appearances. If you’d like to attend an exclusive fans only preview screening of the film, then click here to enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the event.
It’s been just shy of three years since Pete Doherty released an album, his solo effort ‘Grace/Wastelands’. To be fair, he’s been a busy lad – just look at his NME.COM news feed!.
But it does seem like there could be a glimmer of something fresher than his sweat-drenched rosary beads on the horizon, with some pretty great new tunes peppering his recent acoustic shows and a load of new demos posted online. We shall see.
In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to rank the albums he has put out so far: as a solo artist, with The Libertines and Babyshambles. If only for the enjoyment of inviting an avalanche of abuse from fans who think that ‘Down In Albion’ is better than ‘The White Album’. For the record, I think all the albums Pete’s put out are great. But if it’s a journalists’ job to do anything it’s to relentlessly compile lists, so here’s my take on which records in Pete’s back catalogue slot where in the quality league.
It’s been said in the NME office before that this album is the greatest collection of songs ever recorded in the most hideous way possible. I get the point – in places it really does sound like ‘ramshackle charm’ veers into ‘that’ll do, the pub opens in 20′ – but I still think The Libertines’ second (and last) album has aged well. The songs speak for themselves – in a lot of cases just the song titles do. ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, their greatest single, is bloody-raw emotion bled onto vinyl, while ‘Campaign Of Hate’ shows that while it was always scrappy, Pete and Carl Barat’s guitar interplay was more intricate than they’re ever given credit for. ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ is my favourite Libertines song and one of the greatest British songs ever written, lyrically.
2The Libertines – ‘Up The Bracket’
Most fans would stick this straight at the top of the pile, and it’s undoubtedly an incredible album that had way more cultural impact than its follow-up. But the songs on ‘The Libertines’ just whack the chest that little bit harder, you know? That’ s not to say this is anything short of brain-blowing. The punky, untethered energy balls (‘Horrorshow’, ‘Vertigo’, ‘I Get Along’). The romance-in-the-gutter mentality that would be endlessly copied by lesser coattail-surfers (‘Time For Heroes’, ‘Radio America’). And ‘What A Waster’ as the bonus track, well. This album inspired an understated generation of bands and hasn’t been surpassed as a debut since on these shores.
3Babyshambles – ‘Shotter’s Nation’
This album always gets a rough ride, but I think it’s a cracker, if not quite up there with, well, those up there. Producer Stephen Street managed to harness the Shambles madness for a bulky, focused album full of gems like ‘Delivery’, riff-crack opener ‘Carry On Up the Morning’ and, in ‘Unbilotitled’, a heart-shifting ditty that’s not far behind ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’ in the emotiveness stakes. Overall, this was a record light years better than one featuring four ‘co-writes’ with Kate Moss really should have been.
4Pete Doherty- ‘Grace/Wastelands’
The problem with ‘Grace/Wastelands’ wasn’t its pedigree, more the fact that most of the stuff on it had been kicking around the bootlegs for donkeys’ years, so it didn’t really feel like a new album for Doherty devotees. Occasionally on this Pete got carried away with his self-image as a Dylan-esque freewheelin’ romantic yarn-spinner (when he’s really best when he lets rip a la ‘What A Waster’). But in the likes of ‘Sheepskin Tearaway’, ‘Arcady’ and ‘Salome’ he showed he had depth beyond the front rows of the Babyshambles and Libertines crash barrier-clingers.
5Babyshambles – ‘Down In Albion’
I just never got into this. I held off buying it when it came out, in 2005, worried that it would tarnish my borderline freakish obsession with The Libertines. Of course, I got hold of it a bit later, and although it had enough great moments of Doherty songwriting to be worth its place in his back catalogue, it’s scrappily unsatisfying and just a touch… weedy. Pluck out the special moments and leave it at that: ‘Albion’, ‘Pipedown’, ‘Fuck Forever’ – all pretty anthemic, but songs that would only fulfil their potential when bulked live after their official release.
So there you go. While we’re waiting for his next one, then, why don’t you let me know your thoughts by commenting below.