Retrospective: Pete Doherty

Pete Doherty

Troubled troubadour Pete Doherty has had a colourful career. After rising to public attention in the early 2000s as co-front man of indie rock outfit The Libertines, he has been a regular face in the music press and tabloid media. As a result of his romantic outlook and punk ethos he has gained a dedicated fan base that's made him into a cult icon.

In 2002, Doherty and Libertines co-front man Carl Barât were pale London punks with a clutch of songs and a homemade myth. They saw themselves as sailing their fictional ship The Albion in pursuit of a paradise called Arcadia. Their first album Up the Bracket was a mix of romanticism and everyday drama backed by garage rock guitars. At live performances it was sometimes reported that the bands instruments were “flecked with blood and cocaine.”

On the track “The Good Old Days” Doherty sings, “The Arcadian dream has all fallen through, but the Albion sails on course." In hindsight this seems like a glimpse of things to come. Doherty’s well documented drug problems worsened during the recording of the band’s self titled second album. As The Libertines’ star began to rise, the friendship between Doherty and Barât fractured. After Doherty was sent to prison for burglarising Barât’s flat the pair briefly reconciled, but the harmony was short lived. In early 2004 Doherty was asked to take a hiatus from the band. Not long after the release of their second album, it was announced that The Libertines had split up.

After the collapse of The Libertine’s Arcadian dream, Doherty formed Babyshambles. At the time this move was seen as an attempt to hit out at Barât, an opinion supported by the release of the track “Gang of Gin” which is littered with barbs aimed at his former band mate. However as Babyshambles’ popularity grew it could no longer be denied that they were more than a rebound project. Their debut album Down in Albion was released in 2005 with “Fuck Forever” and “Albion” considered the stand out tracks. During this time Doherty continued to struggle with addiction and missed several live appearances, giving the band a reputation that proved difficult to shake. Musically, though, their strength grew. After the introduction of Stephen Street as producer for their second album Shotter’s Nation, the band sounded sleeker than ever. To support the release of the album Babyshambles embarked on a UK arena tour, their largest commercial success to date.

After Shotter’s Nation, Doherty took a break from Babyshambles to focus on his first solo album. Grace/Wastelands was released in March 2009, and featured performances from Blur’s Graham Coxon and members of Babyshambles. Doherty’s performance on Grace/Wastelands was more ragged than his work with Babyshambles, with many tracks drawing on the music hall inspired early efforts of The Libertines. Free of the indie rock label his bands had acquired, Doherty returned to his early influences. As a result, the lyrical style of his solo album is more traditionally poetic. This gained him increasingly positive reviews from the music press, who began to present Doherty as a gifted lyricist rather than a squandered talent as some had suggested. The album marked the last of Doherty’s musical output for some time as he worked on other projects. He turned to visual art and gained attention for producing paintings made with blood. Several exhibitions followed, including a stall in the iconic Camden Stables Market where he sold his own knick-knacks and memorabilia alongside his artwork. After the Libertines reunited for several shows in summer 2010 there was speculation that the band would reform for good, but working relationships remained tense and they parted ways again. After this Doherty moved to France in an attempt to escape the attention of the media, a ploy that seemed to work as attention surrounding him settled.

In 2013 it was announced that Babyshambles were working on a third studio album. Although the band had not officially been on hiatus, they had not recorded together since Shotter’s Nation. The result, Sequel to the Prequel, is widely considered their most accomplished album. The next year The Libertines reunited for a performance in Hyde Park, which developed into an official reformation. Their third album Anthems for Doomed Youth was released in 2015, with a drug free Doherty stating that he wanted to make the most of the chances he had missed before.

As of February 2016 he seems to be making good on that desire, with a second solo album in the works. His youth may have been doomed, but Peter Doherty’s present is bright.

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  1. Retrospective: Peter Doherty | Liam Konemann - 01/03/2016

    […] published on Drunken Werewolf February […]

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