In past periods, the chaotic nomad that was plastered over British Tabloids filled the fable of Peter Doherty with tales of tumultuous obfuscations. Inconsiderate compatriots, colleagues and comrades alike judged harshly at any appreciation for the former The Libertines and Babyshambles frontman.
A figure so distorted by cruel journalists and the tasteless temptations of evaporation that the nations infamous begotten son had to eventually flee across the Channel to the pastures of France. The awareness of his detrimental inclinations towards substance abuse are openly referred to in ‘You Can’t Keep it From Me Forever’; for he knows “Every trick in the book.” Yet, this is an album that transcends Doherty’s past intentions, his attempted mental deformations, but there is beauty here, for “ships that are sunken can still hold treasure” (‘The Epidemiologist’). It is not a plea for help, or an ode to lost friendships that glorified the delirium of The Libertines.
Doherty is able to use his ability of poetic observation, both personal and societal, to derive a succinct picture of the present. A sensitive if not occasionally cliché-ridden reflection of his experience in these testing times. For having been absolutely swallowed for decades in the music industry he has been constantly performing. A man who attempted and has bettered most of his contemporaries, he deserves the desirable status of the Bard who achieves absolution through performance. Thus, lockdowns have prevented him from singing his song “amongst the madding throng.” Those who need concerts will find an endearing empathy within the lyrics.
Frédéric Lo’s accompaniment gracefully aids the process. Two kindred spirits elapse. Doherty has always worked at his prime with assistance and this is no exception to the norm. He finds harmony in the orchestral imaginings of Lo. They sweetly combine indie-pop sounds with Peter’s poetry. One of the most contextual songs in the album, ‘The Glassblower‘, shines light Doherty’s talents as the inspector. Simple lyrics of retrospection, “a hike in the rent” and “fashions they come and go” sung softly reflect immediate issues and amusingly relevant observation. For many, isolation is married to introspection, and our momentary interactions were veiled by mask mandates. For some however, including Doherty, even with the disappearance of physical masks, they admit, “Yes, I wear a mask.”
Such lonesomeness remembrance of those gone before is a common feeling, and it is not different for Doherty. He shows his humanity and genuine heart in his ballad to deceased friend, Alan Wass in ‘Abe Wassenstein’, it feels like a coming of age for Doherty and a move onwards from boyish charm to the path to wisdom that accompanies passing years.
A man so quintessentially English, yet an album that transcends the current sound of the modern British music. Doherty has clearly aged from his youthful rock rebellion and settled for a slower form of serene existence which is evidently reflected throughout. Such an album will grace its listeners with the same reflective peace and be perfect as the season has changed into Spring, let Doherty and Lo accompany in your changes.
You can order The Fantasy Life of Poetry and Crime here in its physical format or give it a listen on Spotify.