Graciously Wasted

grace-wastelandPeter Doherty: Grace/Wastelands (Astralwerks)

Who knew that UK rocker Pete, er Peter Doherty would reach thirty and actually still be capable of vital and dynamic music? Few in the music press thought that he'd live so long. Or that the best album of his career would be his first solo CD -- part shaggy romantic on a displaced busker's holiday. I never bought into the over-hype of his first punked-out band The Libertines, but I saw the potential in Pete's songwriting. For me their self-titled second release in 2004 was the better of the two. Along the same time came the spiral into Dante's Inferno, with young Pete adding his own rings of damnation. Having burned bridges with his original band, Babyshambles would follow and the future looked potentially sunnier even with scared shades thanks to rehab, run-ins with the law, and tabloid-fueled shenanigans.

But little did we, the character-forgiving music press, expect that his solo effort could offer us anything but a feeble outing. These acoustic-based songs are well-constructed microscopic examinations of life through Pete's fractured looking glass. Think Morrissey filtered through early Ray Davies. It's produced by the great Stephen Street with sensible sonic flourishes and orchestrations that leave the jagged edges of Doherty's vocals and acoustic guitar breathing heavy from the emotional expenditure. Along for the ride is fellow rehabber and tasty guitarist Graham Coxon from Blur. They seem the perfect foils for each other. This reflective music never feels forced nor over-produced. These are romantic story songs illustrated with poetic images and sung with earnestness.

It's rare that contemporary acts can cobble together a full CD that can hold my attention past one or two potential singles, but Doherty has fashioned a compelling 12-track collection. Standouts include the jaunty, skiffle-like opener "Arcady," the first single "The Last of the English Roses," which percolates with a dub beat and melodica throughout, and the gorgeous, Biblically inspired romantic ballad "Salome." Vocalist Dot Allison guests on the autobiographical "Sheepskin Tearaway," revealing vulnerable and heartfelt sentiment. Elsewhere the dark yet majestic "Palace of Bone" has a Pogues-meets-Americana vibe that would make a terrific Nick Cave cover.

Pick this up for late summer night listening. - Dusty Wright

Peter Doherty - Grace / Wastelands

dusty5a

Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. He is also a singer/songwriter who has released 3 solo CDs, and a member of the folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was a William Morris agent.

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