Britain’s ultimate modern-day rock star has started calling himself Peter. The reasons for this are unclear. Perhaps he’s decided it’s time to grow up. Or perhaps he’s trying to escape his sketchy past. And two dubiously plodding Babyshambles albums coupled with loads of drugs, crime and consistent no-shows are well worth distancing yourself from.
But really, Doherty’s no worse than ex-raisers-of-hell that are now deemed legends. He’s just unlucky to be in the paper every day. Iggy Pop never had to deal with that. If the trilby-wearing ex-Libertine wants to smoke crack, let him smoke crack. We all have guilty pleasures. But the little oik has let it destroy him these last couple of years. And he’s 30 now, and almost everyone’s given up on him.
So Grace/Wastelands is better than anyone could have expected. Helped by Blur guitarist Graham Coxon’s nimble fingers, it’s the most cohesive, tuneful and literate album Doherty’s ever produced. It’s not the best, or the worst. But it’s lo-fi and mellow, and has very little of the self-interested junkie nonsense that’s become a habit of his.
1939 Returning is exactly the kind of dreamy, romanticised story-telling a writer obsessed with England’s history might pen. And Lady Don’t Fall Backwards is a wistful attempt at painting a picture of his bizarre world. It’s all tea, opium, flowers, lady-boys and trips to Chinatown. He lives in a parallel universe of squalor and good times.
If you’ve been waiting for the moment Doherty comes good again, Grace/Wastelands is it. But if you think he’s a thankless, manipulative scumbag who should’ve been banged up a long time ago, you’re unlikely to spin it. Peter Doherty became about more than just the music a long time ago. And he’ll need a few more moments of inspiration to stop the haters hating.