For the last few years, claiming to be a Peter Doherty fan meant that you were instantly greeted with a scornful visage and the kind of derisive snort that assures you the person across from you is painting you as a rosary-wearing lager lout. Doherty’s time in the limelight with The Libertines and, later, at the height of infamy with Babyshambles has meant his subsequent work has often been tarnished with the ignorant views of tabloid nonsense.
However, dissecting his career, it’s hard to see a point at which the artist himself has given in to such tropes. Instead, he’s largely gone about his business creating music that not only pleases his legion of adoring fans but his own artistic will.
Doherty’s latest venture with Frédéric Lo has once again confirmed his status as one of Britain’s finer songsmiths. A man who has so often draped himself in the Union flag and proclaimed a small corner of the Good Ship Albion to be an empirical place of calm has reached back into his own dalliance with French culture to enhance his music. The latest album from Doherty, perhaps aptly titled The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime, is another reminder of his importance.
When the legendary Libertines frontman teamed up with French musician Frédéric Lo for their forthcoming musical meadow of sanguine prose and sugared sonic compositions, there was a chance that his work could fall into the same indie landfill that many of Doherty’s contemporaries later work does. However, perhaps more so than any of his more recent releases, this album feels like a true reflection of the artist.
Natural and organically bubbling like new-age champagne, the tracks are perfectly weighted with gravitas yet light and intoxicating. In fact, as far as lyricism goes, this is quite frankly as good as anything else Doherty has produced in his storied career. Beyond the perfectly composed and characterful verses that shine on ‘The Epidemiologist’, Doherty not only shines through with individualism but also with a sense of vitality amid the current climate that sets it astride with vicissitude and, well, quite simply, much-needed joy.
There are more moments of brilliance too. ‘You Can’t Keep It From Me Forever’ is the perfect cross-section of Doherty’s intense artistic spirit and his penchant for pop sensibilities.
In an album borne of introspection following the very external howls of drug addiction, this notion of finding calm amid chaos and hope despite harrows is one that is far from some cheap philosophy to pin a tagline on. As a result, the sound is as organic as the whispers of a natural woodland and Doherty strides boldly along his own path. There seems to be a vital necessity to the track and the album so far that implies Doherty’s next chapter may be as good as any that have gone before.
One thing to be said, however, is that if you’re not already a fan of Peter Doherty, and your image of him is confounded with red-top journalism and images of hedonism, then the record may fall flat. If released by somebody without Doherty’s legacy the LP may not have as much impact. However, it is written by Doherty and Lo and is a rich piece of songwriting guile if ever we heard one.
New music is expected for The Libertines and we can’t imagine that Doherty’s more whimsical side will make an appearance. However, as long as there is room for a many with his guitar and a notebook full of lyrics then Doherty will find solace and provide us with happiness.