Friday, November 18, 2016
Album Review :: Peter Doherty - Hamburg Demonstrations
December 2 2016 (BMG)
Words: Richard O’Hagan
This’ll shock you. Pete (or Peter, as he seems to prefer nowadays) Doherty, once the enfant terrible of British music, will be 38 next March. Age does not seem to have altered his approach to music at all, though, and long-term listeners will find ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ to be, on the whole, comfortingly familiar, a mixture of full band numbers and solo ones in the best Doherty tradition.
There are signs that Doherty is still developing as a songwriter, though. Yes, his songs still resemble the musical version of those paintings in Harry Potter which wander off to do something else for a while every now and then, before returning to their original form, but there are one or two surprising things here. Opener ‘Kolly Kibber’, for example, channels 1970’s John Lennon in places (there’s even a choir on there), whilst ‘Down For the Outing’ takes some of his scuzzier early works and gives them a damn good polish to produce something almost anthemic (and who else but Pete Doherty would dare rhyme ‘Rule Britannia’ with ‘dos vedanya’?). There’s also a song about last year’s Paris terror attacks in ‘Hell to Pay at the Gates of Heaven’, where Lennon gets another nod in the form of the J-45 Gibson guitar that he favoured (see if you can spot it). Doherty takes an interesting approach to current single ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)’, including the very good, full on, rock version and a much weaker acoustic one for fans to compare and contrast.
Indeed, the disappointing thing about this record is that there are one or two tracks on here which just shouldn’t have made the cut. Intriguingly, one of those is ‘Flags From the Old Regime’, his Amy Winehouse tribute, which has appeared at several live shows in recent years and yet sounds almost like an afterthought here.
As ever with our Pete, though, there are a couple of absolute gems hidden amongst all of this. ‘Oily Boker’ (no, we’ve no idea, either) is a five-minute sprawling, furious maelstrom of guitar, vocal and film outtakes, whilst ‘Birdsong’ starts out gently before bursting into an amazing, powerful duet as Doherty and female vocalist Suzie Martin trade lines over an almost funky rhythm.
It has been almost eight years since the last truly solo Doherty album, but, on balance, ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ has been well worth the wait.