by Pete Doherty

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Grace/Wastelands is credited to Peter Doherty, not Pete, and that extra R isn't just an affectation. The formal version of his name fits his first solo album's reflective viewpoint -- Doherty turned 30 shortly before it was released, and its maturity feels like a conscious, and necessary, retreat from the chaos surrounding his music with Babyshambles. Even the title Grace/Wastelands feels like a slightly more grown-up take on the wordplay he's used to find that fine line between poetic beauty and destruction since the Libertines. This is easily the best-sounding album Doherty has been involved with, neither self-consciously "raw" nor overly polished; it lets the music be as simple or as elaborate as it needs to be. Doherty reunited with Shotter's Nation producer Stephen Street for this set, and Street recruited Blur's Graham Coxon to play guitar on almost every track here. Coxon and Doherty are an inspired pairing, not just because Coxon is a brilliant guitarist, but because he's also struggled with substance abuse (though he was never as flamboyantly self-destructive as Doherty) and been in a band deemed at one time the saviors of British music. It feels like more was expected of Doherty on Grace/Wastelands than on his previous projects, or perhaps he expected more of himself: his clear-eyed singing and playing do these largely acoustic, often elegant, and usually down-to-earth songs justice, succeeding where Down in Albion's quieter moments got lost in fog and chaos. Doherty revisits the glory days of his former band but doesn't try to relive them, even when he digs into his bag of tunes for "New Love Grows on Trees," a Libertines-era tune with the knowing line "If you're still alive when you're 25, should I kill you like you asked me to?" The song is more smoky and evocative than a Libs-like fiery outburst; similarly, "Arcadie" sounds wistful for the ideals of a few years ago, but Doherty sings with the knowledge that they are just ideals. The single "The Last of the English Roses" feels doubly nostalgic, its lyrics providing Doherty's older-but-wiser take on young emotions and its haunting melodica line recalling Blur's dub fetish. Aside from the narcotic love song "Sheep Skin Tearaway," Grace/Wastelands is some of Doherty's least overtly autobiographical music; instead, the album offers lots of stories and literary allusions, nodding to Oscar Wilde ("Broken Love Song") and the Bible (the gorgeously melodic "Salome"). He channels enough of his own emotion and experience into his storytelling that these songs never feel distant. The World War II-inspired ballad "1939 Returning" -- which was originally conceived as a duet between Doherty and Amy Winehouse -- and "A Little Death Around the Eyes," a Scott Walker-esque torch song to the love that got away from a couple after their happily ever after, are particular standouts. Doherty also uses his solo status to expand his musical range, as on the trad jazz homage "Sweet by and By," and even when he returns to more straightforward rock with "Through the Looking Glass" or "Palace of Bone"'s fiery folk-rock, it's never with the fury of the Libertines or Babyshambles. It's possible that Doherty erred slightly too much on the side of caution and maturity with Grace/Wastelands, but its best moments are so good that it's hard not to feel a little cheated by how incomplete most of his other post-Libertines work feels compared to it. Even if it's a little too measured at times, this is the most consistent, and one of the most enjoyable, albums' to Doherty's name -- regardless of whether it's Pete or Peter.

Product Details

Release Date: 03/24/2009
Label: Astralwerks
UPC: 5099969532429
catalogNumber: 95324

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Pete Doherty   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Harmonica,Vocals,Melodica
Graham Coxon   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Benny Cummings   Trumpet
Sally Herbert   Strings,Violin
Stephen Street   Dulcimer,Acoustic Guitar,Percussion,Strings,Electric Guitar,Harmonium,Tambourine,Background Vocals,Snare Drums,Mellotron
Peter Wolfe   Electric Guitar
Duke Quartet   Strings
Dot Allison   Vocals
Sophie Harris   Cello
John "4 Daddman" Robinson   Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
John Metcalfe   Violin,Viola
Martin Burgess   Strings,Violin
Adam Ficek   Accordion,Cymbals,Drums,Snare Drums,Brushes
Drew McConnell   Bass,Bass Guitar,Double Bass
Stephen Large   Organ,Piano,Hammond Organ,Vox Continental
Mick Whitnall   Acoustic Guitar
Trevor Myers   Trombone
Rick Koster   Strings,Violin
Louisa Fuller   Strings
Peter Wolfe   Electric Guitar
Duke Strings   Strings

Technical Credits

Stephen Street   Programming,Producer,Audio Production
Dot Allison   Composer
Tom Stanley   Engineer
Pete Doherty   Composer,Artwork
Andrew Murabito   Reworking
Alize Meurisse   Artwork
Peter Wolfe   Composer

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Grace/Wastelands 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
PunkRockWarlordFan More than 1 year ago
As a Libertines fan, my curiosity was sparked as soon as I heard that Pete Doherty had released a solo album. I expected it to similar to Libertines or Babyshambles music but it was actually quite different. This album is not fast paced and reminicent of 70's punk like his previous work but instead seems to have a bit of folk influence as well jazz influence. Despite this, I don't think I could classify it into any specific genre. And although this sounds very different than Pete's previous work it still feels like his style. The lyrics are soulful and beautifully poetic. Overall, this album is great. The only complaint I could give is that Pete's handwriting is impossible to read in the liner notes. Other than that, I completely recommend this album. But I would like to add that you should keep an open mind upon your first listen. It took me a few listens to adjust to the album because it is so different and unique. Now it is one of my most listened to albums.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago