Music

Album Review: ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ by Peter Doherty

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‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ album cover. Photo: amazon.com

He’s had probably one of the busiest careers in the indie/rock music genre. Across multiple projects, Peter Doherty juggled releasing three albums with The Libertines; three albums with Babyshambles; one acclaimed solo album; and soon he’ll be back with his second: ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’, all between the years 2002 to 2016.

After always wanting to work in Hamburg, as soon as Doherty was referred to Clouds Hill Recordings, he eagerly showed up unannounced on their doorstep the following day. He then based himself there for the next six months, recording the whole album on a tape machine.

When giving the finished product a first listen, you can instantly tell that a lot of heart, soul and opinion have gone into his track listing choices. ‘Flags from the Old Regime’ is a newly renamed recording of the original Amy Winehouse tribute ‘Flags of the Old Regime’. It’s a song that has forever been a ‘work in progress’ – with Doherty experimenting with different versions since he wrote it in the immediate aftermath of her death. It explores their relationship beyond the typical tabloid headline exposés, with Peter emotionally illustrating:

“The fame they stoned you in, your tiny shoulders soldiered it, you made your fortune but you’re broke inside.”

‘Hell to Pay at the Gates of Heaven’ was also written after the Paris attacks at Le Bataclan last November. This song laments the harsh reality of how young people are now picking up guns instead of guitars, as Peter sings: “Come on boys, choose your weapon, J-45 or AK-47?” – a Gibson J-45 being famed as John Lennon’s favourite acoustic guitar.

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Peter Doherty helped reopen Le Bataclan a year after the Paris attacks. Photo: NME.com

‘Down for the Outing’ is by far one of best hits on the album. It balances the perfect amount of complex acoustic guitar on top of a continuous catchy blues beat, with self-reflective, confessional lyrics including:

“I’m sorry dad, I’m sorry for the good times that I had, oh they make me look so bad.”

The album also features two versions of the same poetic and charming song ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)’. Whilst both versions are defiantly different, they equally demonstrate a more peaceful break from Doherty’s usual rumbling rock ‘n’ roll traits that he’s polished over the years alongside The Libertines and Babyshambles. The first version, which Doherty released in September, is mostly guitar-based with the presence of drums playing a key role in making this song so contrasting to the other. It’s also so raw and clean-cut when it comes to his vocals – which has a lot to do with his unique and intimate recording method.

The second version is significantly slowed down compared to the original. It focuses more heavily on delicate violins and a much more calming, emotive pace; you can actually hear Doherty’s delivery extremely closely, with every emotional attachment to the words captured so meaningfully yet effortlessly.

Lyrically, ‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ is probably the most honest and personal album that we have heard from Doherty – and musically, showcases that ideal balance from signature trademarks to experimental mix-ups, and is an album that would sound absolutely fantastic on vinyl.

‘Hamburg Demonstrations’ was released on December 2.

Rating: 4/5

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