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UK bad-boy Pete Doherty delivers
musically lean solo debut

Peter Doherty - Grace/Wastelands
(Astralwerks Records)
2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 17, 2009
Peter Doherty

Review by Tony Bonyata

It's a shame that Pete Doherty's frequent run-ins with drugs, the law and tabloid headlines have often overshadowed his music since he started recording with the British punk band The Libertines in 2002. Their abrasive, immediate gush of 1970s English-punk laced with the noxious fumes of late '90s garage rock and sweetened with the spry melodies of latter-day Brit-pop helped define the underground sounds of UK rock earlier this decade.

Even when The Libertines self-imploded and Doherty picked up the pieces in '05 to create his next Frankenstein, Babyshambles (an even scrappier, shambolic version of The Libertines sound) Doherty couldn't stay clean enough to keep out of reach of either rehab or the jig. This combined with his high-profile relationship with supermodel Kate Moss and he was guaranteed tabloid-fodder no matter what his music sounded like.

Perhaps even a bigger shame, though, is that this week as the singer/ guitarist turns 30, his first solo album entitled Grace/Wastelends also hits stores and, while it's a definite departure from the harder- edged sounds of his two other bands, it's also his least satisfying effort to date. Despite digging into his own heart and soul on these twelve tracks, the decidedly stripped-down acoustic treatments make for an awkward bedfellow with Doherty's once-slurred and shouting and now sedate cockney vocal delivery - giving many of these already sleepy numbers the feeling that the party's over and it's time for that long drive home. This is proved on the weary numbers "A Little Death Around The Eyes," "Sheep Skin Tearaway" and "Salome."

Luckily the album isn't without merit as witnessed on the jaunty and jazzy dancehall number "Sweet By And By," which wouldn't have sounded out of place on The Kinks' own amalgamation of English eccentricities and American roots music on their brilliant 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies. Other highlights include the hypnotic and lovely tracks "Broken Love Song," "Last Of The English Roses" as well as the bluesy, folk that drives the opening track "Arcadie," a mythical utopian place without rules or authority that Doherty has been jonesing for (among other more obvious things) since the early days of The Libertines.

Doherty recruited the heavy-hitting help of Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon for the majority of his solo debut, but (save for the poppy little rocker "Through The Looking Glass") he unfortunately never gets the opportunity to fully shine on many of these laid-back acoustic numbers. Sadly, neither does Doherty.

Watch Pete Doherty - Grace / Wastelands EPK (HD)

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