Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Ozzy Osbourne, Peter Gabriel. These names come to mind when you think of artists who went on to achieve solo success after already finding it in a band. Though many musicians have gone on to prove their own mettle, it is no easy feat to extricate yourself from a band’s image and brand your own sound and style. The sad fact is, almost every band is going to take a break because life happens. Yet, when music is in your very marrow you can’t blame a guy for trying to make the beat go on.
Pete – or Peter as he calls himself these days – Doherty, the former front man of The Libertines and Babyshambles, known to be notorious in life and lyrics, delivers a surprisingly tepid performance on his new solo endeavor The Hamburg Demonstrations. Doherty seems to have always struggled to find his niche in the solo world, with press accounts reporting that some live performances were met with him getting pelted with coins and alcohol to get off the stage.
In fairness, it must be hard to distance oneself from the excitement that was The Libertines. During that collaboration, Doherty helped lead a revival of punk garage-rock bands and contributed vocals and lyrics on two albums produced by Mick Jones of The Clash. The music was tight, fast-paced, and the messages were on point. The majority of the new songs on The Hamburg Demonstrations are a markedly mellow and unfocused departure. The songs often blur into one another, leaving the listener feeling listless and with a trigger finger to skip to the next track to see if there is something new around the bend.
In the midst of mellow and dreamy love song “I Don’t Love Anyone (but You’re Not Just Anyone),“ which to its credit is beautifully crafted in a musical sense, Doherty launches into a displaced verse of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.” It feels so out of place, the listener feels like they are listening to an intoxicated patron at the local karaoke night who forgot what song they were singing.
While the album is not one you can put on and listen to from start to finish, there are some hallmarks of a Doherty performance that fans are sure to appreciate. The messaging, while not as tight as we know Doherty can deliver, is there in songs like “Kolly Kibber”, named after the famed character from the Graham Greene novel. Credit too must be given where it is due, as “She is Far” is the gem of the album. With sweet lyrics and a perfect storm of violins and subtle drums to round it out, it is certainly mixtape or playlist worthy. If only the rest of the album could have followed suit.
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