Monday, 5 December 2016

Hamburg Variations

Before we get into the fact that Peter Doherty has wasted his talent (he has, to an extent) and the fact that he will never write another "What A Waster" (he won't, and I hate to admit that), let's address the elephant in the room: almost all of these songs were written ages ago. Some go as far back as The Libertines years (those Libertines years), which makes them about a hundred years old. If that doesn't make you drink your brain off, nothing else will.

Hamburg Demonstrations should be seen as a Doherty retrospective. A lovely, ragged odds and ends compilation, one desperately crying for a song-by-song analysis. Made easier by the fact that I've just drunk half a bottle of Portuguese green wine at a cheap cafe outside the Campanha train station in Porto.

"Kolly Kibber". We are off to a good start that is typical underachieving Peter Doherty. Could be a classic in the old days. A serviceable opener circa 2016. Interesting middle-eight. 8/10

"Down For The Outing". The beat is lazy but the melody retains the ramshackle charm of old. I docked a point for the Russian word. Or added one. Who cares. 7/10 

"Birdcage". The beginning is neither here nor there, but it hits the stride soon enough. I've actually grown to appreciate the female vocals even if they would have been far more effective in case of a much less capable singer. To match Doherty's sad drunk wailing. 8/10

"Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven". Written in 2015, no less. A jolly old number with Doherty proving his torn and frayed songwriting chops. 8/10

"Flags From The Old Regime". One of those lovely (lazy? underwhelming? boring?) songs he's always liked to write. Pretty, if nothing else. 7/10

"I Don't Love Anyone (But You're Not Just Anyone) V2". Christ knows why he needed two versions of this song on one album, but since I've agreed to judge this collection by what's actually on it - a good song is a good song. Decent orchestration, but a point off all the same. For confusion. 8/10

"A Spy In The House Of Love". This one's just unfocused. Has a very promising start, but suddenly veers off into tuneless mumbling and moaning. 6/10

"Oily Boker". The ending to the album is undeniably strong. No rabble-rousing classic anywhere in sight, but "Oily Boker" is the closest we get. The bridge is outstanding. 9/10

"I Don't Love Anyone (But You're Not Just Anyone)". I see why Luke Haines said he wanted to put forks into his eyeballs the moment the marching beat kicked in, but I'm not British - and besides, the lyrical hook is bloody brilliant. 9/10

"The Whole World Is Our Playground". Another near-classic that, again, was written back in the 18th century. The melody is the reason why I still consider Peter Doherty such a rare talent. 9/10 

"She Is Far". The tune is no great shakes, but what a perfect closer. 8/10

In the end, I'm more than happy to have Hamburg Demonstrations in late 2016. As a piece of nostalgia. As a reminder. As a testimony. Just get that wild spark back, Pete.