Judge gives props with her ruling

Times Staff Writer

FREQUENTLY embattled, drug-addled British rock star Pete Doherty received a glowing review last week from a cultural arbiter with the power to not only derail his career but also take away his freedom: a judge at Thames Magistrates Court in London.

Doherty, 27, lead singer of the shambolic indie rock outfit Babyshambles and former frontman of the critically lauded Libertines, faced possible prison time after being caught in August with crack cocaine and a crack pipe. He was already on bail after a bust in April for possession of small quantities of heroin, coke and weed.

But on Monday, judge Jane McIvor let the singer-songwriter (and on-again, off-again boyfriend of supermodel Kate Moss) off with a comparative slap on the wrist: a $1,525 fine, repayment of court fees and a suspended driver's license. "At this stage, it would be counterproductive to simply take you away from society for a matter of weeks and would undo the hard work that a lot of professionals have put in," she said in court.

McIvor also complimented Doherty on his new song "The Blinding," the title track of a new Babyshambles album, calling it "a good tune."

Doherty-watching has become something of a national pastime in Britain, where he has served prison time for "offensive weapon" charges, done a stint behind bars for burglary and even composed bad poetry in London's Pentonville Prison in February while serving a two-week sentence for drug possession.

But last week saw another critical validation for the man dubbed "Doperty" by wags in the British press. Early reviews of "The Blinding" -- released Tuesday in the U.S. on Capitol Records -- have been generally positive (The Times gave it three out of four stars last week). Sales figures won't be released until Wednesday, but Capitol's president and chief executive, Andy Slater, remains confident that there's no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to Doherty.

"The kind of music fan who will be most receptive to the music of Babyshambles is probably well aware of Pete's history," Slater said via e-mail. "The fact that his renown has contributed to his name and face recognition here should ensure that more people are inclined to give the music a listen, so that should definitely be a positive."

Scissor Sisters cut up on 'Passions'

TV soap operas have never been big on subtlety, but even by the category's already campy conventions, NBC's daytime drama "Passions" surpasses expectations -- Bollywood-inspired flights of fancy, animation and magical realism have all turned up on the soap, delivered with a knowing wink. That may explain what prompted platinum-selling camp-tastic disco-rock act the Scissor Sisters to make its "acting" debut on the show in a two-episode arc set to air in February.

According to an announcement, "young witch Endora (Nicole Cox), a big fan of Scissor Sisters, conjures them up in Tabitha's (Juliet Mills) living room." The Scissor Sisters will perform two songs off their September album "Ta-Dah": "I Don't Feel Like Dancin' " and "Land of a Thousand Words."

A very reggae Hanukkah

NOTHING says Hanukkah -- not dreidels nor gelt, menorahs nor potato pancakes -- quite like reggae. At least that seems to be the thinking behind Sirius Satellite Radio's choice of Matisyahu, a devout Lubavitch Hasidic Jew and gold-selling reggae toaster, as host of the station's Festival of Lights radio show.

Beginning at sundown Friday and airing several times a day for the eight-day duration of Hanukkah (until Dec. 23), Matisyahu will present historical background and share his thoughts about the meaning of the holy day between commercial-free blocks of reggae music on Sirius reggae channel 32.

Brooklyn singer

is a metal twofer

The heavy metal blogosphere has been abuzz of late about two of Brooklyn's most extreme art metal bands, Made Out of Babies and Battle of Mice, both fronted by singer and lyricist Julie Christmas. The groups continue the tradition of such extreme bands as Nine Inch Nails and the Jesus Lizard with a formulaic inversion: Christmas replaces the testosterone and male athleticism characteristic of those bands with her signature hysteria.

"It's very physically intensive," Christmas explains. "After a show, I have to run to the bathroom to hyperventilate. I'm just a mess. At the beginning, I'm all cute Pippi Longstocking; at the end, the clothes are tattered."

Listeners' expectations are similarly shredded by her bands' punk-metal sound and confrontational mien. "There's a lot of effort that goes into it," says Christmas, "[but] you can make it work if you have the heart and some of the talent."

No track crystallizes Mice's nihilistic outlook better than "At the Base of the Giant's Throat," which incorporates a seemingly real 911 call in which Christmas sounds as if she's in distress.

She refuses to discuss it. "Too close ... too soon ... maybe someday."

-- Casey Dolan

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