ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Doherty ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’

in New Releases

Worth the wait: Peter Doherty returns with his new release “Hamburg Demonstrations”

Some things are worth waiting for, and this certainly rings true for Peter Doherty’s new album, his first solo release since 2009’s Grace/Wasteland.

First announced on September 27th, the new album was recorded, mixed and produced by Johann Scheerer at Clouds Hill Recordings in Hamburg, Germany. In light of Doherty’s tumultuous past, his fans have by no means had an easy ride. And yet those who have stayed true to him through all the years will not be disappointed by “Hamburg Demonstrations”, a harmonious composition of tracks that humour, provoke and inspire to daydream.

The album kicks off with “Kolly Kibber”, a playful tune that showcases the youthful side of Doherty’s distinct timbre – complimented by cheerful chords on the piano, plucked guitar and smooth, angelic-sounding female harmonies in the bridge.

It is followed by “Down For The Outing”, a demo of which had been leaked online in 2012. The stripped-back unfinished version featured an acoustic guitar and an accordion line, accompanied by a very softly crooning Doherty. On the official release, the guitar packs more punch, in distinct Doherty-style, while the accordion part has been eliminated entirely.

The vocals carry an air of lament, as Doherty seemingly reflects on his own past when he sings “Sorry dad / For every good time that I had / They made it look so bad / Sorry mum (…) Gave you hope when there was none”. He concludes the song with the words “No pretty rhythms to ease a troubled mind / There’s many troubled minds round here”.

Up next is “Birdcage” an up-tempo duet with singer Suzie Martin. The love song was first released as an acoustic version on the soundtrack of the 2012 film Confession of a Child of the Century, in which Doherty stars alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg. It includes the lyrics “We can never be together / You’re too pretty and I’m too clever”, which are rumoured to have been penned by Peter’s close friend, the late Amy Winehouse.

“Hell To Pay At The Gates of Heaven”, which Doherty wrote following the Paris attacks of 2015, ironically juxtaposes an upbeat melody with the hard-hitting lyrics “Come on boys choose your weapon / J-45 or AK-47?” The song, just 2:40 minutes long, comments on the frighteningly young age of the terrorists involved in the attacks. In true Doherty style, Peter scratches the surface of a very heated topic, and leaves it there – the song is over before you know it.

In comparison, his tribute to Amy Winehouse, “Flags of the Old Regime”, which was first released following the icon’s tragic death in 2011, delves a lot deeper. It’s a heartfelt ode to a talented yet troubled young mind, who seems to have shared many similarities with Doherty himself. His vocals are at times slightly imperfect, which gives the track a raw edge as Peter sings “You made your fortune / But you’re broke inside”.

They’re accompanied by a demure, lamenting strummed guitar. At the end of the track, it seems as though Doherty’s – now slightly croaky – voice trails off absent-mindedly, which adds to the beauty of this truly heartfelt composition.

Then, there’s “I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)”, a beautiful ballad which actually appears twice on the album: once in a stripped-back version that features soft strings and vocals, and then again in a more powerful, traditional band setup.

The poetic lyrics perfectly encapsulate why Peter Doherty is heralded as one of the most influential songwriters of his time. He melodically chants “The luck a penny brings, means everything / When you kiss and cross superstitiously” and “You drop an eyelash and finger from the wish”.

What is most striking about this track, which was released as the LP’s first single, is just how incredibly catchy it is. Track five – “I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone) V2” is followed by “A Spy in the House of Love” and “Oily Boker”, before the musical narrative circles back to a second, slightly more optimistic sounding version of “I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)”. By this point, having heard the track only once previously, I’m already nodding my head and humming along to the memorable chorus line – testament to Doherty’s immense songwriting skill.

The album concludes with ‘The Whole World Is Our Playground’ and the mellow “She is Far”, and after the final note fades away, I’m tempted to press play and listen to it all over again. Overall, Doherty’s newest record sounds a lot more coherent – yet equally as beautifully simple – as Grace/Wastelands. Peter still pours his heart and soul into the music, but compared to the old days, he seems to have calmed down a lot.

I’d recommend this record to everyone who loves Peter Doherty – and to anyone willing to give him another chance. You won’t regret it.

Upcoming Tour dates

16.11 PARIS Le Bataclan
17.11 PARIS Le Bataclan
18.11 TOULOUSE Le Bikini
19.11 MARSEILLE L’Usine, Isters
21.11 CLERMONT FERRAND La Coopérative de Mai
22.11 LYON Le Transbordeur
24.11 CAEN Le Cargo
25.11 NANTES Stereolux
6.12 LONDON O2 Forum
7.12 MANCHESTER Albert Hall

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