Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing for anyone, especially when done to excess. So, in the hands of someone like Pete Doherty, it’s potentially cataclysmic. ‘Albion’, however, charms - as much a bitter lament for a land lost as it is a sweet paean to an England remembered from fading sepia photographs and dog-eared Shoot! annuals.
Its seductive naivety is probably down to the fact that it was, by his own admission, the first song Doherty ever wrote and borne from a time when that naivety was the most seductive thing about him. Far flung from this baby-faced magnetism and always prone to retrospect with The Libertines, it must be a heavier fog that now engulfs Doherty whenever his mind meanders back to those heady days before Kate, HMP Pentonville and the shadows of the tAbLo1d pR3zzz.
Here Doherty uses the past to cast off these trappings, and sounds all the better for it. “Yellowing classics, and canons at dawn/Coffee wallahs and pith helmets/And oh, an English song” showing his flair for imagery and a willingness to romanticise the mundane. This could be closer to the ‘real’ Pete Doherty than the numerous documentaries ever did get; as by pinning his true colours to the mast, (romanticism, human longing, a fascination with innocence), he nearly pins himself down only for your mind to swing back to the song’s very first line and realise he’s not really giving much away at all.
Having existed for a long time in various guises on the internet, ‘Albion’ was always going to have to work hard to do itself justice as a band-driven single; and it does fall down in some respects when held against those versions featuring him, alone, with an acoustic guitar. But the production on this version does have its plus points; particularly the first verse which benefits from the same breezy tenderness as was heard in Wolfman collaboration ‘For Lovers’. It is these moments that I, for one, will miss if Doherty goes the way of the other cartoons inked in by the red-tops. If he is to finally burn out with the midnight oil, this would be a fitting elegy; softly humming from vinyl tracks as he descends into the earth wrapped in red Sgt. Pepper jacket, forever entombed in the old 38 bus.
8Kev Kharas's Score