Lib­er­tine and Al­bion’s finest re­turns with a chaotic sec­ond al­bum of bo­hemian rhap­sody.

LIB­ERTINES FRONT­MAN’S LAT­EST POST­CARD FROM THE EDGE.

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PETER DO­HERTY HAM­BURG DEMON­STRA­TIONS BMG/CLOUDS HILL, OUT 2 DE­CEM­BER

Last year’s Lib­ertines re­union was a de­ci­sive vic­tory, cheer­ing ev­i­dence that the wild chem­istry be­tween Pete Do­herty and Carl Barât was far from spent. Even so, given the bleak his­tory of dam­age and dis­ap­point­ment that cloaked the band’s pre­vi­ous decade, it ini­tially seems pru­dent to ap­proach Ham­burg Demon­stra­tions, Do­herty’s sec­ond solo al­bum, with ex­pec­ta­tions teth­ered. His last lone ven­ture, 2009’ s Grace/Waste­lands, grazed the edges of some­thing beau­ti­ful, Last Of The English Roses and 1939 Re­turn­ing fine ad­di­tions to his Al­bion chron­i­cles, yet Do­herty de­mands hard work from his lis­ten­ers. His tal­ent is, be­neath the tabloid static, beyond doubt, but he can make his au­di­ence pan for the gold dust. Ham­burg Demon­stra­tions doesn’t com­pletely spare the au­di­ence that chore, rid­ing the line be­tween charm­ingly un­pol­ished and slightly un­der­done. It was recorded at the Ger­man port’s Clouds Hill studio, where Do­herty turned up unan­nounced one morn­ing in 2014. The ti­tle tips a fe­dora to the anti­gen­tri­fi­ca­tion protests that shook the city that year – ri­ots al­ways being close to Do­herty’s heart – but the al­bum very much puts the stress on the “demo”. De­spite the vi­o­lins and pi­anos, there is a pa­pery fragility here, while the track­list­ing has a patch­work qual­ity. The spec­tral cham­ber mu­sic of I Don’t Love Any­one (But You’re Not Just Any­one) ap­pears in two ver­sions. Flags From The Old Regime has un­der­gone a slight ti­tle change and added depth, but re­mains Do­herty’s tellingly em­pa­thetic 2011 trib­ute to Amy Wine­house (“You made your for­tune/But you’re broke in­side”). The lovely She Is Far, mean­while, was writ­ten pre-Lib­ertines, a pure, ur­ban-folk lament from the past, about the past: “Blues and greys and greens across the river… mon­u­ments to blood spilt in for­eign lands.” Ditch square ideas of sub­stance and so­lid­ity, though, and Ham­burg Demon­stra­tions is stud­ded with won­der­ful mo­ments, even some grander stretches. It opens, ir­re­sistibly, with the Brighton Rock metaphors of Kolly Kib­ber, Do­herty’s into-his-col­lar dic­tion of­fer­ing age-old ideas of con­flict res­o­lu­tion: “There’s one way to set­tle this… have a skin­ful and sing Knees Up Mother Brown, dear.” The cer­e­mo­nial plod of Down For The Out­ing mixes im­pe­rial hor­rors with per­sonal grief, a dis­turb­ing melt­ing be­tween time and place. Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven, is a clearer re­sponse to apoca­lypse. A re­ac­tion to the Bat­a­clan mas­sacre, it pushes rock’n’roll and art over vi­o­lence and re­li­gious ex­trem­ism: “Come on boys, choose your weapons/ J- 45 or AK- 47?” It’s an odd mo­ment to roll out the jaunty bar­room pi­ano, but he makes his point. There are less right­eous mo­ments, though. A Spy In The House Of Love, ap­par­ently a peev­ish rant against friends who sell stories to the papers, crow­bars its ag­gres­sion into a knack­ered riff: “There’s no im­me­di­ate con­nec­tion be­tween this cho­rus and this ver­sus/Keep the crit­ics on their toes/Take them out the back with a piece of hose”. Rak­ish lo­cal colour, maybe, but it’s hard not to wish the space was filled by more songs of the cal­i­bre of Kolly Kib­ber, or volatile flâneur’s ballad Oily Boker. Chaos is, how­ever, key to Do­herty’s vi­sion, and Ham­burg Demon­stra­tions is the work of a man still in thrall to old Bo­hemia, even in­clud­ing the sound of a type­writer rat­tling away, a relic of writ­ers past. More time, more rigour, it could have been even bet­ter. The sense re­mains, though, that Do­herty doesn’t want a mon­u­ment, he wants a mo­ment: a sketch, a snap­shot, a trail­ing thought. On those terms, Ham­burg Demon­stra­tions shows ex­actly what he’s made of. VIC­TO­RIA SE­GAL

Lis­ten To: Kolly Kib­ber | Down For The Out­ing | She Is Far | Oily Boker

DO­HERTY DOESN’T WANT A MON­U­MENT, HE WANTS A MO­MENT: A SKETCH, A SNAP­SHOT, A TRAIL­ING THOUGHT.

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