Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres

Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres

Indie has-been Pete Doherty has a new album out. Should we care? Probably not, finds Luke Turner

Pete ‘Peter’ Doherty recently Instagramed a photograph of himself with a bandaged hand, saying that it was the result of getting spiked by the infected spine of a hedgehog as he tried to rescue it from the jaws of his pet husky. Not to say that I don’t believe Pete ‘Peter’ Doherty’s excuse (much as I can’t possibly believe that Pete ‘Peter’ Doherty had anything to do with a man falling to his death from a balcony at a party he was at, Pete ‘Peter’ Doherty stepping over the body as he fled into the night), but if you asked me I would say I thought that Pete ‘Peter’ Doherty might just be the kind of arsehole who would punch a hedgehog, much as during a recent Guardian interview he kicked one of his husky’s turds under a bush, rather than clearing it up. The husky there, a canine species best suited to being cared for in a dilapidated hotel in Margate, where Doherty now resides.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that it’s been bizarre of late to see former Libertines singer Doherty suddenly appear back in the public eye, like a funny emission months after the VD clinic has given the all clear. He was on Radio 4’s Loose Ends, appeared in a prime interview slot for Channel 4 news in which he repeated that line beloved of colossal bellends the white western world over that political strife and hard times are good for punk rock. Then there was the Guardian profile by Simon Hatterstone last week, in which the rope presented to him would have made Albert Pierrepoint send his assistant back to the chandlers. In it, the pointers of a dissolute soul lost to drugs (the blood ‘paintings’ on the wall, the desperate attempts to flog the interviewer his clothes) seemed to lack the penetration of that cruel hedgehog spike, while other aspects (Doherty pulling out a broken typewriter to record the interview so he didn’t get misquoted) seemed contrived to add to the mystique of the drug-addled artist. Then there was the matter of Doherty referring to himself as the “Primrose Hill dildo” exploited by the wealthy for sex, which I am have not been alone in interpreting as a misogyny-steeped attack on former lovers like Kate Moss.

The Libertines had a few good songs and while Doherty might once have had a certain charisma surely that vanished around the time he was the dark spot of that moribund venn diagramme where the retromanic tendencies of British music met tabloid celebrity culture at the Hawley Arms, the worst pub in London’s anus, AKA Camden. But why, in 2019, does Doherty still get this attention? For if we’re to judge the artist by the art, then new project Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres barely justifies these column inches and moving pixels wasted. Doherty’s ‘new direction’ is cod-gypsy indie folk from a fairly passable band – they’re the kind you might see sawing away on fiddles in the late night tent of the sort of festival where the spawn of the Home Counties go to bosh ketamine and fiddle with each others’ bits before going on their gap yahs. There are moments here, such as the funereal lurching that is the first 40 seconds of ‘Who’s Been Having You Over’ in which you think this is actually quite good as in ‘not shit’ as in ‘could have been OK on a b-side to Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish‘. But then Doherty lollops into earshot and starts singing. His vocals never really gel with the music – he mutters and spouts over the top, as ever sounding like he’s having some difficulty keeping jaw attached to his skull while sucking on a gobstopper. It’s just all so deeply average, from the half-arsed drug-suggestive double meaning of the title to the weary ‘Paradise Is Under Your Nose’ to closer ‘Punk Buck Bonafide’, possibly the worst piece of music I’ve heard this year, a barely there acoustic guitar sketch with Doherty yammering away in a fake American accent. I believe he might be trying to be meta.

In ‘Someone Else To Be’ he warbles and bellows over a whining violin, joylessly quoting from Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, “But please don’t put your life in the hands / Of a rock & roll band / Who’ll throw it all away”. It’s a moment that might have some heft were it self-directed and cauterising, yet here is merely facile, entirely lacking in any self-awareness. Doherty still sounds like a fraud, for whom all of this, the drugs and the deaths and the lost friends, are just a bit of lark gorblimey luvvaduck. “You can’t lose control if you don’t have control” he sings on ‘Shoreleave’, before having a moan about the tabloids and using the metaphor of himself in some sort of war, which is crass to say the least.

You could argue that Doherty’s insistence in interview that he loves life, alongside the cheery jauntiness of the likes of ‘The Steam’, sends out a positive message, that no matter how far you sink into addiction and appalling mental health it’s possible to create uplifting art. From nearly any other artist I would be prepared to take this. But not from Doherty, a pork pie hat twat blowing his crack pipe to glamorise drug use for careerist purposes, inspiring young fans to God knows what, whose career is overshadowed by mysterious deaths. In many ways he ought to represent the final nail in the coffin of the mystique of rock & roll enlightenment through excess and I for one am utterly surprised that in this age of cancel culture he’s still given the time of day by the music business and media alike. Yet no, Doherty still brazenly peddles this mediocre drivel, an overflowing Keep Calm And Carry On ashtray blight on our culture that’s bizarrely still admired, and his beloved Good Ship Albion sails merrily on. Please God, someone send a U-Boat.

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