Review: Peter Doherty – Hamburg Demonstrations

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Lyrical wonderment

A delightful album that showcases what Doherty's really very good at - lovely poetic lyrics with fantastic melodies.

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The majority of Peter Doherty’s days over the last few years have been taken up by Anthems For Doomed Youth, the third Libertines album and the first in 11 years, leaving him little time to follow up his own 2009 record Grace/Wastelands. However, unbeknownst to us until recently, he has been working on something, and Hamburg Demonstrations is ultimately exactly what we’ve come to expect from him.

Some of its tracks – like ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone),’ first played live in 2013 and occasionally since in his solo shows – have been floating around for a while, however for most this record is the first studio recording and it all sounds incredibly nice, well-constructed, and as typically romantic as his writing, especially if you’re familiar with his poetry. Despite it being produced and recorded by actual music people who know what they’re doing, it’s still very Doherty: stripped back, the production doesn’t get in the way of his style or sound.

“I don’t want anyone, but you’re not just anyone / You’re not just anyone to me,” he sings as guitars are gently plucked and strummed. Hamburg Demonstrations Doherty recognises how fragile it is to be in love – “You live this way and oh, I’ll never leave” – and when you hear the bridge of Civil War-referencing song ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ you can’t help but feel that he is following a process of being head over heels in love and engaging with the turbulence and irritable and argumentative times it brings.

The album goes on to feature a second version of the song – its lead single – and ‘A Spy In The House Of Love,’ a demo track that’s a little unconventional, maybe more suited for a B-side. I’m not sure a demo should be so soon in a tracklist, but can’t we be forgiven if we were expecting anything other than slight chaos at this point? Hamburg Demonstrations also features ‘Flags Of The Old Regime,’ the song written to raise money for the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which has been played in most all of his live performances since being released. It’s all typical Doherty, making for a fantastic return from one of the best songwriters we still have. Even if you’ve only known of him as that bloke from The Libertines, this record is a fantastic place to start to listen to a showcase of his solo material, and hopefully enough to sway those who go to his gigs simply to hear him singing Libertines classics.

Hamburg Demonstrations is released on December 2nd via BMG and Clouds Hill Recordings

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Second year PAIR student and live editor. Fan of cats, tea lover, can be found rambling about politics and cats at @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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