Peter Doherty and Frédéric Lo, a majestic collaboration

After the Libertines, the Babyshambles and the Puta Madres, Peter Doherty offers himself a successful escape thanks to the French composer Frédéric Lo. The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime heralds a refreshing new step for the English rocker.

We had left him with his last project, the Puta Madres, and between two tours of the Libertines. A pandemic and a definitive cessation of drugs later, Peter Doherty returns with a new album; an open-hearted project that breathes redemption and the sparks of a new artistic stage. The singer has surrounded himself, for this album, with the composer, arranger and producer Frédéric Lo – known among others for his collaborations with Daniel Darc, Alex Baupain, Stephan Eicher and Bill Pritchard. The elegance of Lo’s music blends perfectly with the poetry of the lyrics and Doherty’s delicate voice. And this alchemy makes The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime one of the best albums of the moment.

Composed in Normandy

In July 2020, while working on a tribute album to his late friend Daniel Darc, Frédéric Lo arrived in Étretat after finding Doherty’s address. He has an idea in mind: he wants to convince Doherty, whom he has already met ten years ago, to cover a song by Darc in English. He offers her two tracks, but it’s Useless and useless (from the album Crevecoeur2004), transformed into Without Use and All Used Upwhich is required. “At first, he didn’t understand that it was my music”, remembers, amused, the composer who agreed to answer our questions. After recording the song, it was over a bottle of champagne that Doherty, who was having trouble writing new songs at the time, asked Lo to continue their artistic collaboration.

The 43-year-old Englishman and the 57-year-old Frenchman are spending the fall of 2020 confinement recording this album in the Cateuil house, in Étretat – this sublime 19th century manor house.e century which appears on the album cover and in the eponymous clip. Main guest of the recording of the album, the pandemic is therefore not forgotten: we find it in the last track, Far From the Madding Crowd, in which Doherty laments the closure of bars, clubs and festivals. For several weeks, the two artists meet daily around the kitchen table for writing sessions. “It happened in a very natural way, like two people who meet and have the same love for music”, remembers the composer. For the first time therefore, Doherty concentrates exclusively on the texts, and Lo composes, as he already did with Daniel Darc. The result is an album as melancholy as it is joyful. Frédéric Lo also speaks of a certain “luminous melancholy”.

“I like it to be contrasting. Like a beautiful black and white photo. It is a living melancholy. »

worthy successor to Grace/Wastelands

Doherty delivers here the worthy successor to his album Grace/Wastelands (2009). Frédéric Lo also admits not having particularly listened to the Libertines or the Babyshambles, but having fallen under the spell of the rocker’s solo album. The tracklist of this new album is thus disconcertingly skilful, alternating between pop puffs – like You Can’t Keep It From Me Forever, Keeping Me on File – and the quieter, melancholy Doherty-esque songs. Something to please purists who swear by Grace/Wastelands !

Frédéric Lo also lists with great pleasure the common musical references of the two artists: in first place, the Smiths, but also the Cure and the Beatles. Then come the French authors: Maurice Leblanc, the father of Arsène Lupin and symbolic figure of Étretat, the first source of inspiration for the album, but also Victor Hugo, mentioned by the singer in the disc, and whose pleiades arranged in the Cateuil house accompanied the recording.

Beyond the references, the demons of the Likely Lad are never far away: in The Monster, he thus recounts the difficulty in detaching himself from drugs. The violins make the piece particularly touching. “Life is tender, beautiful and violent”, he sings then. As in The Ballad of and Yes I Wear a Mask – piece yet written with an open face – where the Englishman evokes his torments, redemption and admits to singing “the sweatest sadest song”. In Abe Wassenstein, Doherty pays homage to a departed friend, most likely Alan Wass – friend of his early London years. The piano, the strings and the brass are omnipresent there: exit the electric guitar, hello the folk. Of course, there are also catchy refrains that work perfectly, as in Invictus and the first single, The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime.

“I felt like I was 15, realizing I’m working with someone I have a lot in common with. Except that we are no longer 15 years old”, adds Lo. The sixth piece, Rock & Roll Alchemysums up this meeting and its saving dimension: “You’re like a brother to me at the end of the song”. So “l’enfant terrible” – now calmer – would he have had his best encounter since Carl Barât? More than a year and a half after the start of their collaboration and a few hours before the release of the album, Frédéric Lo was, for his part, convinced: “It may be exaggerated, but I kind of feel like everything I did before was made to get to this moment. » Undeniably, the 12 pieces of The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime as shown by !

The Fantasy Life of Poetry & Crime, by Peter Doherty and Frederic Lo. 12 titles. Available since March 18, 2022.

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