Marking yet another briefly liberating detour from The Libertines, Peter Doherty’s Hamburg Demonstrations manages to prop up an intriguing – though often muddled – none stop, pop-rock forefront. It feels like The Libertines delivered their breakthrough debut Up the Bracket close to a million years ago, with the members still clinging to that initial rip-roaring wave of success, even today. That being said, on Hamburg Demonstrations it seems Doherty is stumbling closer than ever towards a more mature sound.
Near Tongue-twistingly titled ‘Kolly Kibber‘ opens with a soothing acoustic jingle, later holding hands with the placid vocal harmony of a – soon gone, but much needed – whistle-stop choir. Though this easy going LP has its moments, cheap hooks run amok its various empty verses, acting as crafty distractions to plain, dull songwriting. Twangy guitars in the almost country sounding ‘Hell to Pay at the Gates of Heaven‘ just barely prevent the track from being hauled into a dead end, though at times you wish they just would.
It’s especially unsettling to skim over some of the drearily-bland chords that offer no excitement whatsoever. Boring. Nonetheless, the body of Doherty’s charmingly wayward album is followed by a semi-revived closing half, with certain stand-out tracks stealing all the attention like Kate Middleton’s sister. Thrill ride ‘Oily Boker‘ wildly transforms into a mad ruckus we might have been exposed to on a classic Libertines hullabaloo. With grunge sweltering howls and vicious barks, the song vaults down into a rib shattering seizure before springing back into a familiar peppy yet cramping kerfuffle.
Similarly, the single ‘I Don’t Love Anyone (But You’re Not Just Anyone)‘ shows that Doherty has a knack for picking around at a catchy tune; “Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah” repeated over a parade drummer’s steady snare rolls is surprisingly entrancing. Hamburg Demonstrations can certainly be an enjoyable listen, especially for an avid fan of The Libertines, but the songwriting can easily come across as shoddy or disappointingly unambitious. Still, we can keep on wishing for The Libertines to bump their heads together, pull through, and whip together another raw, gusto-packed grunge-slinging LP. Fingers crossed.