Peter Doherty and the Puta Madres – album review: More befuddled than bohemian

This sensitive, late-Dexys style psych-Celt outfit mould Doherty’s numb-tongued half-songs into evocative reflections of their pastoral surroundings, but the album is backloaded with meandering, semi-bothered filler

There’s only so much the Puta Madres can do to keep Doherty coherent
There’s only so much the Puta Madres can do to keep Doherty coherent

It’s difficult to convince hardened drug addicts to think straight at the best of times, and tougher still when they’re the cash-cow in the room who cannot be questioned. That’s why Peter Doherty’s albums with The Libertines have, by and large, been kept in focus by the crisp songwriting of his brother-in-Albion Carl Barat, while his solo albums and Babyshambles offshoots have contained a couple of energised smackers and a whole lot of sonic dribbling that sounds like it was recorded half-conscious, face down in a massive fried breakfast.

So initially the Puta Madres – “puta” is a Spanish sexual expletive, “madres” means “mother”, you figure it out – sound like a positive influence on our Pete. Recording their debut in a Normandy fishing village, this sensitive, late-Dexys style psych-Celt outfit mould Doherty’s numb-tongued half-songs (“All at Sea”, “Someone Else to Be”, “Travelling Tinker”, “Shoreleave”) into evocative reflections of their pastoral surroundings. They convince, too, as southern gothic gunslingers on “The Steam” and add a dash of haunted carnival intrigue to new wave crime story “Who’s Been Having You Over”.

“Paradise Is Under Your Nose” is the stand-out, a stirring folk lament kept on track thanks to the vocal duet with co-writer Jack Jones of Trampolene doing the heavy melodic lifting and some keening fiddle from Miki Beavis, but there’s only so much the Puta Madres can do. As with most Doherty releases, it’s back-loaded with meandering, semi-bothered filler. “Lamentable Ballad of Gascony Avenue” is lamentable scat nonsense, and the fool of “A Fool There Was” – basically John Lennon’s “Love” being ruined by a schizophrenic music hall busker – is presumably whoever let this incoherent mess on the record at all.

“I never liked choruses anyway,” Doherty gabbles early on, before stealing a couple wholesale from “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside”, his insouciance looking more slapdash by the minute. No doubt Doherty is aiming for bohemian here, but he once again hits befuddled.

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