In the U.S., Pete Doherty is known mainly as a tabloid fodder for being Kate Moss’s former paramour and a world-class drug addict, if he’s known at all. In his native U.K., at least, his musical exploits in Libertine and Babyshambles have yielded him a few hits.
Doherty’s first solo album comes out Tuesday and the self-titled CD is a relaxed, low-key affair. It’s a little sleepy to absorb in one sitting simply because there aren’t a lot of tempo changes-every song is pretty much built around the same mid-tempo. However, it’s one of those albums that grows more endearing with repeated listening.
What it lacks in diversity in tempo, it more than makes up for in the different time periods Doherty travels through musically and culturally. Opening track, “Arcardie” is a toe-
tapping, gently chugging tale; in “Last of the English Roses,” like all good upper crust British school boys, Doherty rambles in French for awhile. He references Isadora Duncan on “Salome.” “Through the Looking Glass” has the obvious “Alice in Wonderland” references, but is very ’70s-oriented like Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat.” (and I mean that in a good way). Similarly, seduction song “Lady, Don’t Fall Backwards,” has a lovely, ’70-ish singer/songwriter vibe to it, propelled by subtle organ lines. He promises “I’ll love you forever, or at least until morning comes.” That kind of sly gentility pervades the album.
The time-traveling continues on “A Little Death Around the Eyes,” which has almost a Jacques Brel/Kurt Weil feel to it, With its old-timey, barrel piano playing, “Sweet By and By” feels like snippets of “Ragtime” should be playing behind it. It’s downright Randy Newman-esque.
Poignantly, on “New Love Grows on Trees,” Doherty sings “If you’re still alive when you’re 25, shall I kill you…” I’m sure at some point Doherty never expected to make it to his current ripe old age of 30, but I’m very glad he did.