It’s been a long time since Peter Doherty’s youthful and acoustic debut solo album ‘Grace / Wastelands’ was released in 2009, and it’s also been a long road since then. Becoming infamous for various tabloid articles and run-ins with the law, trouble and turmoil have always been synonyms for Peter Doherty. Alas, there’s always been more to Doherty than what we’re drip-fed by the media. Taking 6 months to record in Hamburg, his 2nd album Hamburg Demonstrations adopts the care-free sound we’ve all come to know and love with Peter, minus the bit about fobbing off two men on the Vallance Road.
The album kicks off with Kolly Kibber, a poetic ode to an individual which sets the tone for the rest of the LP; lyric-driven and reliant on an acoustic guitar. The album’s most personal and morose track Down For The Outing plods along, with Doherty revelling in being ‘down for the outing to the prison of [his] mind’. After the wave of malaise in Hamburg Demonstrations, euphoria returns with Oily Boker, providing a 5-minute trance-inducing immersion, and includes the age-old harmonica to cash in early on the nostalgia of the LP.
World affairs also muscle their way into the album, with Hell To Pay At The Gates of Heaven making light of the Paris attacks in 2015, condescendingly demanding with strained and occasionally poor vocals, “come on boys, choose your weapons, J-45s or AK-47s”. Aside from this track, Peter descends back into introversion and confrontation characterised by the funky Birdcage, focused on romantic poetry and a duet with a female singer.
There’s also 2 versions of the song entitled I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone) – both sound incredibly similar, acting as a gentle reminder that the theme of the album is romanticism, with a tinge of melancholia. I Don’t Love Anyone … v2 is oddly listed before version 1, and includes a beautifully arranged string section for the heartfelt ballad. Version 1 follows a bit later, ditching the strings for an upbeat edition to contrast the sincerity and beauty of version 2.
It’s easy to assume Doherty is an anachronism with tales of the Arcadian dream and Albion, but this takes a slight twist in Hamburg Demonstrations. A Spy In The House Of Love is perhaps the easiest and most clear turning point in Peter’s modernisation as after the grating typewriter begins the song, in chimes the message tone off an iPhone – truly something I never thought I’d hear sandwiched in an album by Peter Doherty, before we’re once again plunged into the cryptic and celestial world of Doherty with The Whole World Is Our Playground, an early demo of Peter’s which has gladly made it to record.
Hamburg Demonstrations is an album of emotional affirmation, played all too well through delicate lyrics, as album closer She Is Far demonstrates with absolute transparency. While it is more of the same typically acoustic guitar-led pieces synonymous with Peter, Doherty’s second effort is one filled with maturity, retrospect, and vigour – a far cry from past tales of stylish kids in riots and raucous garage rock.
Hamburg Demonstrations is released Friday 2nd December, pre-order it here.
Words by Jasmin Robinson