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Andy Gill (The Independent): ***
Grace/Wastelands has the curious status of offering the most convincing account of Pete Doherty's talents, yet at the same time conveying the limited parameters of his artistic reach.
It's when he's at his best that one can most clearly gauge his limitations, and they don't leave him much room to move here. Too many of these songs are slim ideas polished to an almost respectable lustre by arrangements which try to add colour to Doherty's monochrome presence without trampling over his anomie.
It works reasonably well on "A Little Death around the Eyes", where creepy organ and strings lend the song a touch of Bond-theme glamour; and on "Arcadie", where acoustic guitar and brushed snare astutely capture the singer's blithe spirit. But elsewhere, things fall badly apart, particularly the ghastly jazz pastiche of "Sweet By and By" and "Palace of Bone", a song about "times together winding on that snaky road". But the weakest aspect of the album is its predictability, from the Tony Hancock reference ("Lady, Don't Fall Backwards") to the self-reflective tone of "I Am the Rain". Sooner or later, even Pete's dwindling band of acolytes is going to grow bored with his slim volume of conceits, and the Libertines reunion had better be well in hand when they do.
Pick of the album:'A Little Death around the Eyes', 'Arcadie', 'Last of the English Roses' .

Alexis Petridis (The Guardian): ****
Pete Doherty is famously a fan of the traditional British sitcom: he has referenced The Likely Lads, taken the stage to Steptoe and Son's theme tune and this, his debut solo album, concludes with a song named after Lady Don't Fall Backwards, the unfinished whodunnit that drove the Lad Himself to distraction in Hancock's Half Hour. So perhaps it's fitting that Doherty's own career now bears a resemblance to the most traditional British sitcom: Last of the Summer Wine. Given the climate, you might have expected it to have been axed years ago, but against all odds it still seems to be trudging on. The audience is dwindling, the cast keeps changing and it's getting difficult to find anyone with a memory long enough to recall why it was thought to be workable in the first place. At some point in the past, people must have laughed along with it, although every time you catch a glimpse of it now, you're struck by how depressing it all is: it's meant to conjure up a charmingly romantic image of a lost England, but something about it makes you think of lethargy and boredom, of homework not done. Yet someone keeps bankrolling it, so that another rickety contraption can be built and optimistically pushed down a hill, with messy yet thumpingly predictable consequences.
So it is that Grace/Wastelands arrives with a sigh of "Are you still here?" rather than the excitement it might once have engendered: not even the news that Blur's Graham Coxon is on hand to help haul Doherty's bath on wheels up the slope has caused much of a ripple. He was recruited by producer Stephen Street, whose continued presence suggests a laudable generosity of spirit, given the shoddy goods he was expected to work with on the last Babyshambles album. He did his best, but failed, in much the same way as Heston Blumenthal might struggle to create a Michelin-starred meal entirely from oven chips and Reggae Reggae Sauce.
Perhaps Street returned on condition that Doherty came up with some decent songs. Certainly something set him scouring his unreleased stockpile for gems. There are tracks here that date back five years, before the tabloids turned up and Pete became Potty. That might account for the album's frankly astonishing surfeit of memorable tunes; it would certainly explain the lack of smirking references to heroin and crack and of the snivelling self-pity that makes junkies such reliably delightful company. Admittedly, neither are entirely absent. Arcadie comes with a nudge-nudge line about "seraphic pipes", while Sheepskin Tearaway and Sweet By and By return to the perennially winning themes of how it was everyone else's fault that he got chucked by Kate Moss and how it was everyone else's fault that he got kicked out of the Libertines. He squanders one of the album's loveliest melodies on the former, even reverting to that terrible spare-any-change-please whine he kept using on Babyshambles' catastrophic Down in Albion.
But for the first time in a long time, smack and solipsism don't seem to be the whole point. Instead there are songs like the genuinely brilliant 1939 Returning, on which the lyric shifts from an ambiguous portrait of an Englishman in Germany during the second world war - he could be a spy or traitor - to a pensioner recalling her years as an evacuee. Midway through its chorus, there's a beautiful, unexpected chord change, subtly highlighted with strings and a single, tremolo-heavy guitar note. Like the echoing guitar that weaves eerily in and out of the vocals on New Love Grows on Trees, and the lovely, seamless segue between A Little Death Around the Eyes and Salome, it demonstrates the delicacy with which Street and Coxon add shade to Doherty's songs, lending the album a unifying air of understated, small-hours melancholy.
The result isn't perfect, but it's the first album Doherty has been involved with since the Libertines' debut not to require any special pleading. Whether it's enough to arrest his downward slide is an interesting question: there's a distinct possibility that it's now too late, that he's still doomed to see out his days in Last of the Summer Wine style, beloved of a shrinking cabal of dutiful diehard fans, ignored or mocked by virtually everyone else. Listening to Grace/Wastelands, it's hard not to feel that would be a shame. There might still be more to Pete Doherty than an interminable, unutterably depressing comedy of errors.

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