It’s been 7 years since the Shambolic Genius known as Peter Doherty has released a solo record, and almost 2 years since the former heroin dependent Libertines front-man got clean and sober. Yet if Hamburg Demonstrations is anything to go by, musically at least, not much has changed – the composition mimics the cover art of disorganised creativity, while the all too familiar Albion continues to haunt the singer’s writing, punctuated by the sound of domestic unrest and typewriters.
Recorded in Hamburg, Germany, over a 6 month period with Johan Scheerer, on an 8 track 2 inch Studer A820 tape machine, Doherty’s latest offering is comprised of 11 songs which clock in just shy of 40 minutes. Included are duplicates of I Don’t Love Anymore, an ode to the late Amy Winehouse, and a demo originally recorded in 2003 – a possible disappointment to anyone outside of the hardcore fan base, taking into consideration the ample time to complete the record.
Opening with the charmingly frolicsome Kolly Kibber, Hamburg Demonstrations sets the bar high for the following 10 tracks, which unfortunately, fail to meet expectations, aside from the impressively produced A Spy In The House Of Love and Hell To Play At The Gates of Heaven – a song Peter composed following The Bataclan attacks of 2015 in Paris, France, where he states ‘Come on boys, choose your weapon – J-45 or AK-47.‘ An emotional track, no doubt also inspired by the fact that the artist also calls the city his home, and his contribution to the performance that reopened The Bataclan earlier in the year.
Fresh off a solo tour and having recently been part of the creative process that fueled the first Libertines album in a decade, Doherty may just have spread his creative ambition too thin on this occasion. I Don’t Love Anymore appears twice throughout Hamburg Demonstrations, just 3 tracks apart, with the first presented as a solo ballad, and the second featuring a full band ensemble…though neither seem to stand out. Flags Of The Old Regime, written in relation to Amy Winehouse, who was a close friend of Peter, promises a gritty tribute to a complicated yet vastly talented soul, yet fails to present the production to accompany the lyrics. Birdcage, a collaboration with Suzie Martin, also possesses the potential to be an excellent track, yet is messily delivered and disappointingly off key.
While the return of such a prolific musician on the UK scene is most definitely welcome, Doherty’s latest solo effort falls short of expectation, especially as he was adamant that sobriety was going to be the catalyst for his creativity. Take the time to look, and there are most definitely lyrical gems to be discovered, but the disjointed presentation and lack of original material makes for a cumbersome trek through what should have been a glorious rise from the ashes.