For years Pete Doherty has been the living incarnation of his own lyrics. A drugged-up, incoherent indie talisman producing little of any note and living off dubious past glories. I must admit I had the knives sharpened for this one. Why expect anything other than another epic failure? “-What a waster, what a fucking waster, he pissed all up the wall”. Or did he? Grace/Wastelands suggests not.
Pete has become Peter, and it seems it’s not just the name that’s changed. Doherty’s done away with the slurring lyrics; the messy, disconnected album formats are a thing of the past. Grace/ Wastelands is melodic, subtle and spread across several genres, and it’s never hard work to listen to. Sharp production and a more sparing – and more endearing – use of Doherty’s customary vocal oddities make this by far the strongest Doherty album since The Libertines.
Don’t expect anything resembling Doherty’s early stylings however. Grace/Wastelands is a proper piece of acoustic genre fiddling, taking in jazz licks, almost Dylan-esque melodies and even a subtle hint of the psychedelic. There’s more national pride here than a DUP convention, with subject matter such as the Second World War and the old English Rose popping up in a glowingly positive review of the land that so frequently scorns him.
The Delicately downbeat -I Am the Rain’ displays a newfound maturity and ‘Sheepskin Tearaway’ – a duet with long time collaborator Dot Allison – is a beautifully minimalist ballad that begs to be stuck on repeat. Single -Last of the English Roses’, is a brooding and memorable piece of acoustic pop incorporating Pete’s understandably fragmented memories, and brings you as close to understanding his life as you ever likely to be.
At the risk of being OTT – and no doubt Pete’s past failures are a heavy influence here – Grace/Wastelands falls frighteningly close to a classic. That spark seems to have re-ignited; Doherty’s latest should have people talking about his music again. The ultimate reward for his long suffering fans, perhaps? Welcome back, Peter, it’s been too long.