Content, content, content. It just never stops, does it? A draining deluge of artists and personalities and influencers and assorted psychopathic rabble waving frantically for your attention. The music world is no different, with each each Friday bringing an exhausting flood of shag heap hopefuls, fading vets, and algorithmically-programmed industry plants just clawing, clawing, clawing for your streams, baybee. Here at The Niche we are far too lazy and understaffed to cover all of it, plus we firmly believe that 96% of each New Music Friday is the absolute dregs and contributes nothing to the artistic tapestry and, more often than not, takes a razor to that very cherished tapestry, but each week we promise to dash off a hastily-written, short, and error-filled screed focusing on one new release that has risen above the general din to catch the attention of our tattered and torn receptors.
The real shame about our dear Peter goes beyond mere drug addiction and massive breakfast challenges. The real shame is that Doherty is a real deal artist who deserves to be evaluated on his visceral, wounded, modern-gypsy musical output alone. It cannot be overstated that Peter would be a lot better off had he never dated Kate Moss, had the red tops never caught a whiff of this dissolute character just ripe for the vulture swarms. Ideally, Doherty should be a fringe artist, a cult figure, where he could thrive on the DIY venue circuit and a small but rabid cult thirsty for his hyper-romantic, overtly poetic songs dripping with equal parts hope and fear.
Speaking of which, this new album with his brand new backing band The Puta Madres is easily the best thing he’s ever done. While The Libertines can sound a bit stale within their aging guitar rock confines, and Babyshambles existed mostly as a conduit for good ol’ fashioned rock hedonism, this record leans more toward the other masterpiece in this likely lad’s pocket, his 2009 solo turn Grace/Wastelands. The vibe is straight up violin-drenched gypsy English freak folk. If Fairport Convention had recorded Liege & Lief in the black soot of London as opposed to some idyllic countryside commune, it very well may have sounded something like “All At Sea” or “The Steam” or many of the other standouts on this colorful and heartfelt platter of straight-up fantastic songs.
Never before have Doherty’s songwriting chops been so acutely on display. The aforementioned “All At Sea” is a thing of ragged beauty, a jewel that’s been through the wars and is all the better for it, with Miki Beavis’ violin hovering over the proceedings like a wounded swan. While “Who’s Been Having You Over” didn’t impress me as an advance single, in the context of the record it works quite well as the lone rocker, and that psychedelic intro is like nothing one would ever expect from a Libertine. Jack Jones’ vocals on the “Paradise Is Under Your Nose” chorus are so sympathetic and loving you really have to wonder about his and Pete’s relationship. There are so many career-great tracks here it’s kind of scary. Was Pete hoarding all these or did they come in a burst of inspiration on the Margate seaside over the past year? You won’t find a better song than “The Steam” anywhere on the new playlists this week, possibly even this year. The intriguingly-named “Narcissistic Teen Makes First XI” and “Travelling Tinker” offer up wide-eyed, rambling black earth jams that wouldn’t have sounded a stitch out of place in the ol’ weird England of 1919. The only skippable track may be the awkward VU/Oasis fusion “Someone Else To Be”, although its placement at the very center of the record provides for the perfect pink break, and it’s more unnecessary than offensive. The record’s final stretch, a warm churn of acoustic beauty, is a ripe, glistening jaunt that offers up some of the best first lines I’ve heard on a record this year. There’s the “Another uptight skinny white figure, sitting there with your finger on the trigger,” of “Punk Buck Bonafide” or the “Oh, please, won’t you bury mine for me” of “Lamentably Ballad of Gascomy Avenue”. And on album-standout “Shoreleave” we have the curious declaration of “I never lost control” which, although arguable on a personal behavior level, is certainly a fact when it comes to The Muse.
The heart of the matter is that after one solid listen, this record is the greatest display of Doherty’s singular songsmithery and, even though it won’t work to kill his bad rep with the general population, it will certainly fuel the small but rabid cult who posses the secret, forbidden knowledge that your most hated junkie urchin also happens to be the finest and most enduring songwriter of his generation.