Libertines and Babyshambles leader Peter Doherty finds himself constantly at the center of a hurricane of media attention, a windstorm of publicity that constantly keeps him in the public consciousness.
“Grace/Wasteland” is a brave exploration into the eye of the hurricane. Recorded over a month of sessions in autumn 2008 at London’s legendary Olympic Studios with producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur, Cranberries, Kaiser Chiefs), Peter Doherty brings to life a collection of songs many which have existed since the heady days with The Libertines. Without the guise of The Libertines and Babyshambles to hide behind, never before have we seen Doherty so personal, raw, and vulnerable in his songwriting. Ripe with lyrical insights, Doherty’s main themes are present and truthful – his troubles with youth, music, love and addiction are all revealed.
Adding color to Doherty’s compositions is Blur guitarist Graham Coxon, appearing on nearly every track, instilling in the music his pedigree and refi ned studio nous. Scottish singer Dot Allison (One Dove) and poet Peter “Wolfman” Wolfe also make contributions to the record.
“Arcady” – A beautiful song that trips along from a poet and his guitar. It’s the beauty of Doherty’s simple strumming with a nice melody that has made so many fall in love with his music.
“Last of the English Roses” – Doherty makes the simple beautiful. It sounds very familiar. Any fan of Babyshambles won’t find the verses anything new—however the chorus is simply beautiful.
“1939 Returning” – This is an interesting song. “Tread carefully so carefully/ Upon the drifting ice/ Caught behind enemy lines/ In 1939/ For Germany he sacrificed his life/
Caught behind enemy lines/ There in 1939.” If it all is meaningless its still beautiful with a gorgeous melody and Doherty’s voice to carry it along. A brilliant song. Doherty is all his glory.
“A Little Death Around the Eyes” – Quite a bizarre song about a woman who “cooks and cleans when I tell you to” and “screw when I tell you to.” It survives because of the soul of its singer.
“Salome” – Another score. Doherty writes the sweetest little ditties. Its amazing how stripped down and barren they are and yet he easily supports every moment.
“I Am the Rain” – “My cousin the snow lays blankets below” shows how simple little verses hooked into beautiful choruses can pass right through you and have you singing along as if you grew up with it.
“Sweet by and By”- This is a swing and miss. Doherty comes off like a hack and it would have been better to just leave this behind or throw it on a B-side.
“Palace of Bone” – Not entirely painful. It comes off as some bizarre hilly-billy rock track.
“Sheepskin Tearaway” f/Dot Allison – Maybe the worst song title ever, but don’t let that stop you from listening. It’s a surprisingly gorgeous. Allison is a perfect counterpart.
“Broken Love Song” – This song is saved by the chorus. Doherty is able to take nothing more than repetition of “they are the loneliest” and extend it into a charming melody.
“New Love Grows on Trees” – Doherty slips another gem in.
“Lady Don’t Fall Backwards” – Another one that could have been left behind.
If you’ve been dying for a new Babyshambles record than you’ll be quite satisfied. If you’ve found that the old Doherty gems you’ve loved for years have grown old and you need something new to your teeth into then “Grace/Wastelands” fits the bill. This isn’t Doherty reinventing himself and it doesn’t matter. Fans love Doherty for his songs and ability to pull so much out of so little. “Grace/Wastelands” is no different. Doherty might add a bit more production but the songs remain the same. Tender, intimate and damn good.
Watch Peter Doherty talk about the album:
Watch the video for “The Last of the English Roses”