Jessica Fleming

Hamburg Demonstrations by Peter Doherty – Album Review

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As a Libertine’s fan, I was ecstatic when I was blessed with receiving an early copy of front man, Peter Doherty’s, latest solo album – Hamburg Demonstrations. It had been a dream of Doherty’s to record in Hamburg, and when he was referred to Cloud Hill Recordings (the studio where the LP was produced, recorded, and mixed) he turned up on their doorstep unannounced and based himself there for 6 months. The end result was Hamburg Demonstrations, coming 7 years after his debut.

Before I begin, I’ll be honest – I’ve had this LP on repeat for the past month or so. So here goes.

The album opens with ‘Kolly Kibber’ and an acoustic guitar, which takes a few bars to find its feet. The track, based on the character that meets an unfortunate end at the start of Brighton Rock, picks up pace around the chorus and has Doherty crooning how he doesn’t “want to end up like Kolly Kibber”. This album takes us on a roller-coaster of styles, such as the dark and bluesy ‘Down for The Outing’ with its steady thudding beat. Here, Doherty seems to optimise the past year, perhaps even without knowing it, as he comments that “there’s many troubled minds round here.” Further on in the album, ‘Oily Boker’, the longest track, lasting over 5 minutes, shows Doherty capturing a wide range of styles in just one song. It’s structurally intricate, featuring harmonics, violins and, at times, a dreamy guitar.

Later on, we are met by ‘Hell to Pay at The Gates of Heaven’, a track written after the Paris attacks last November. Doherty once again draws on common and relevant issues of today’s society, focusing on how young people are now picking up guns rather than guitars: “Come on boys choose your weapons, J-45 or AK-47” – the Gibson J-45 was John Lennon’s favourite acoustic guitar. I find this to be one of the standout tracks of this record, with to its almost slogan-like lyrics of whether to “Join a band or join the army.”

‘Flags From the Old Regime’ is another of my favourites, a newer version of the tribute Doherty wrote back in 2011 during the immediate aftermath of his friend Amy Winehouse’s death. This soulful track is musically open but really hits home with its lyrics. “You made a fortune but you’re broke inside” and “stand up there in front of the whole world and you don’t feel them songs no more” discuss the troubles Amy went through with the media and the press.

It’s clear this album was made in true Doherty fashion; it’s a bit scruffy around the edges and contains a mixture of ‘demonstrations’ including demos, multiple versions of tracks, and songs both new and old. The first 30 seconds of ‘A Spy in the House of Love – Demo Vocals’ is the clinking of typewriter keys, whereas its ending is the sound of Doherty rambling about the recording he had just made and the layout of the song. Featuring two versions of ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)’  is another prime example of the album’s individuality. Version 2 appears first with what must be the original 3 songs later. Both are completely different, showing how meaning can be depicted differently depending on speed, tone, and instrumentation. V2 brings violins, a slow mellow but melancholy sound, whilst the later track is more guitar-focused with a fuller body of sound. Closing the album is ‘She is Far,’ a lovely acoustic track which confirms Doherty as a true romantic. The violins make a reappearance, drifting in and out, ending the album on a calm and peaceful note.

For me this album is Peter Doherty at his most personal. It’s not a Libertines album or even Babyshambles, just 100% pure Doherty.

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