Peter Doherty & Frédéric Lo – ‘The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime’ review: breezy and charming baroque indie

The Libertines man teams up with the French musician for a sweet and serene collaboration (indie sleaze not included)

If you’ve come looking for indie sleaze, search elsewhere. Now married and nearly three years clean, Pete Doherty is happier and sorted for cheese and fizz rather than chasing darker endeavours. ‘The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime’, the Libertines and Babyshambles man’s first collaborative album with French musician, composer and producer Frédéric Lo, is testament to that: written and recorded in Pete’s new home of France, there’s a sense of place throughout.

Inspired by French writer Maurice Leblanc and his fictional gentleman thief and detective Arsène Lupin, the record’s opening title track captures the wistful vibe that follows as well as the duo’s shared love of The Beatles, The Smiths and ‘60s pop. It swings us into an album of jangly indie joy and summer breeze. The lilt of strings in ‘The Epidemiologist’ lifts spirits as Pete searches for the best in the worst (“The best-laid plans can oft go to fuckery,” he ponders, “run down B&Bs can turn to luxury”), while ‘The Ballad Of…’ will find a place in the hearts of fans of The Last Shadow Puppets’ first album and the baroque stylings of Scott Walker.

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I know every trick in the book,” croons Doherty on the Suede and Morrissey-indebted ‘You Can’t Keep It From Me Forever’, a cautionary tale of hunting for drugs that now feels bittersweet, given the distance from its inspiration. Lo, who plays guitar, bass and keys here with assistance from a local drummer and a French orchestra, lays out the sweet indie-pop groundwork so Pete can focus on his words and the purity of his voice. Their chemistry becomes explicitly manifest on ‘Rock & Roll Alchemy’ as Doherty notes: “Oh you play so lovely… You’re like a brother to me at the end of the song.”

There’s a lot of heart in here. ‘Abe Wassenstein’ is a Dylan-esque tribute to Doherty’s late pal and collaborator Alan Wass, who died in 2015 (“I sit and stare, say a kind of prayer for a friend of mine,” he tenderly pines). Closer ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’ is the sound of an artist mourning the loss of places to sing his songs during lockdown, and the sense of belonging that comes with it.

The Libs will soon be touring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ‘Up The Bracket’, while Pete also told NME recently that we should still expect their ‘Sandinista’-style new album. There’s your score of sleaze – this, though, is something else. Doherty’s folky 2019 album with The Puta Madres was the sound of the former kid in the riot staring out to sea and looking for a little peace. Here with Lo, it feels like he’s truly found it. Now more than ever, this record is truly Arcadian.

Details

Record label: Strap Originals

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Release date: March 18

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