The Last of the English Roses
en: Grace/Wastelands [info]
With its diverse range of styles, Grace/Wastelands appears at first to be a slightly disjointed and incoherent album. However, it soon becomes apparent that there is one thing linking all the tracks – an honest and genuine outpouring of Doherty's soul. Whether it's the 60s, jaunty flavour of Arcadie, the darker New Love Grows On Trees or the lazily-paced, jazz-infused Sweet By And By (that could have come straight off a Fats Waller album), Doherty's heartfelt 'poetry' spans them all, providing a universal theme of 'this is the real me'.
The songs are mostly beautifully simple, which is refreshing – Doherty definitely allows his raw passion and musicality to take the lead. Salome is not much more than guitar and a lot of cymbal, but this enhances the eeriness and almost haunting nature of the album. It's in a totally different league to the most recent Babyshambles output, that's for sure: Doherty should certainly stick with the solo – and stay away from the headlines.
The singer has barely graced the tabloid front pages in recent months – and it seems for good reason. He's clearly been holed up in a studio, wallowing in a deep sea of emotion and, with the help of producer Stephen Street and Blur man Graham Coxon (who shines on I Am The Rain), has convincingly transposed those feelings into 12 worthwhile tracks.
Doherty's monotonous voice, never that strong an instrument, can be rather grating after a while, although relief comes on Broken Love Song (co-written by Peter Wolfe), where his voice is lower in the mix. This allows the great melody to shine through, as well as giving the listener a break from the slightly dreary tone... Having said that, the tracks themselves are interesting enough to carry him through and his lyrics, still referring to a mythical lost Albion (on Arcady), bear closer scrutiny. Though his inspiration seems to be heading for Smiths territory, name checking both Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp.
It's hard to say whether Grace/Wastelands will garner Doherty a new army of fans, but it absolutely proves his worth as more than just the shambolic, drug-taking ex of Kate Moss. It deserves a chance – even from the most vitriolic of Doherty-haters.