Looks like ol' Pete is making a bit of an effort to re-invent himself as a serious artiste by releasing his debut solo album under his full and proper name. His latest tabloid antics no longer revel in his love-life and drug dependence, now focusing on such riveting exploits as tattoos, gay kisses and art deals with taxi drivers, all superbly well timed for Grace/Wastelands' release, suggesting Doherty is a lot cleverer than the populace give him credit for.
Though Grace/Wastelands features songs Doherty wrote up to five years ago, its increased consistency and mellower tone would certainly support claims of sobriety. The frantic energy of Babyshambles and The Libertines is long gone, leaving a mostly acoustic, down-beat affair that showcases Doherty's more composed, conventional side. Though it mightn't be what he's best known for, it's a side he has revealed sporadically on previous band albums, and better, it has to be said. Produced by Stephen Street (The Smith, Blur), Grace/Wastelands features Graham Coxon's guitar talents on all but one track, not that you'd know it, since the style is predominantly simple strumming or Americana-twinged plucking.
Packed full of Doherty's characteristic self pity, this really is an album for wallowing. In itself, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the best moments are marked by hints of nostalgia in the old music hall style of Sweet By And By, and the dirty vintage recordings that open and close WWII epic 1939 Returning. If Grace/Wastelands is intended to be a window to Doherty's morose and lonely soul, then it's done its job pretty well, but it never seems to gain any momentum, merely trudging along at the same monotonous pace, and throwing in the odd surprise to save it from becoming complete forgettable.