Tortured, outrageous and unpredictable, few musicians can match the versatility or complexity of Peter Doherty. Poet. Musician. Songwriter. Prisoner. Recovering addict. Father. The many faces of Doherty have been documented over the course of almost two decades.
The decadence and romanticism that surround Doherty’s persona seem forever placed in independent music culture, and when it comes to actually understanding the frontman, things seem somewhat less complicated. Having once been compared to a cross between Sid Vicious and Oscar Wilde, the comparison still seems applicable to the point where any other attempts at capturing his essence seem redundant.
Recorded live to document the spirit of Doherty’s music collective at a family home overlooking a fishing village in Étretat Normandy over four days, ‘Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres’ captures elements of The Libertines, the sound of an English rock and roll band, whilst carrying something that reaches further and beyond, drawing on other cultures and presenting a wide range of voices.
The album is an intimate portrayal of love, loss, being lost, happiness, tragedy, addiction and how the power of the human soul can transcend the darker levels. This is a journey of beauty, twisted charm and cryptic poetic word play coupled with the soft sizzling guitar riffs from Trampolene frontman Jack Jones, the sound of rich, expressive violin playing from Miki Beavis, and Doherty’s recognisable Steve Harley-like vocals.
As ever avoiding anything that sounds slick and polished, the key components of Doherty’s signature sound come together on this record. If the essence of his art is about not appearing to try too hard, then it is a clever creative tactic, and is evident on the opening track ‘All At Sea’ and continues throughout the record.
Released ahead of the album, ‘Who’s Been Having You Over’ and ‘Paradise Is Under Your Nose’ harness the recognisable dualism associated with ‘Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres’. But darker, heavier sounds are heard on ‘The Steam’, “Dead in the steam. Skin so cold and clean”, he observes.
There is a light playfulness on ‘Lamentable Ballad of Gascony Avenue’. In similar style, the bluesy, busking vibe captured on ‘Punk Buck Bonafide’ brings the album to its close with a cool air of tranquil rock as Doherty pronounces the current state of affairs, “Your living out a freak mythology. A social dichotomy. Powerless no property.”
‘Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres’ is a pukka, endearing record. Whilst it juggles and supports some of the most desired components of a Libertines record, it clearly has ambition to take things further and test new territory.
As Doherty once sang, “Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter”, and the heart of the matter on this record carries so much weight and substance, but it is presented in light playful ways and therein lies its appeal and beauty. It has light and shade.
Words: Susan Hansen
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