Monday, April 06, 2009


Doves are just so much better than they should be. The 4th album Kingdom Of Rust
looks like it's going to be more of the same big faced earnestness, chiming guitars and generic Northern glumness (do Elbow have a funny bone?) tempered with a dancefloor euphoria.
Here it comes, the swelling chorus, arms in the air, dancefloor drugs
rather than dance floor dancing. They keep the vocals mixed down low and
in interviews the singing bassist Jimi Goodwin has talked about deliberately
keeping the lyrics open ended and fuzzy to allow the listener to add their
own interpretation. (Actually that's often the defence of the
lyrically useless or the songwriter who is still scribbling while the
studio clock ticks and the keyboard player is practising their drumming

The feeling you get from Doves songs is that they are singing about the big
stuff. They sound like songs about leaving: hometowns and lovers,
travelling and movement....but the thing is I think they're going for a
feeling rather than a definite. If there is a Northern quality, then it’s
as much about place names in song titles (Northenden, Salford Quays, Winter
Hill) as much as the way they sit geographically and sonically with
Manchester bands like Elbow and The Chameleons with their middle distance
peering or Liverpool bands like Shack or The La’s with their more
traditional song structures. There is a terrace feel to them too.
Pounding was regularly played at Man City games and they’ve recorded a
version of Blue Moon. So there is more to them than earnestness.

What lifts them up as a band is their attention to detail, with a clever mix of guitar
sounds, little tricks and treatments. The first 2 albums sound compressed
and claustrophobic. The textures are really good but while you can hear the instruments you can’t hear the air move. You don’t hear the sound of speakers or drum skins pushing the
air around them, you don’t have the sound of fingers on guitar strings or
the clicks and pings of musicians making music. In fact I should hate the
sound of it…but I don’t

Catch The Sun from the first album Lost Souls has a warm fuzziness and an
elliptical bass line under the chorus of “Everyday it comes to this, catch
the things you might have missed, You say, go back to yesterday”. It’s a
line and a sound that pretty much captures what the band are about.
Wistful, regretful but oddly uplifting. It’s the kind of glumness you can
live with.

Second Album The Last Broadcast contains my favourite song of theirs (and probably yours) There Goes The Fear. With the drug references of the title and the line “Think of me when you’re
coming down” and a hefty 6 minute running time, it packs it all in.
There’s a U2 chukka chukka guitar sound and a really surprising moment as
the delicate “There goes the fear again” vocal line descends towards the
chorus. As the guitar line drops down it sounds like he’s fluffed the
line, and skipped a note, but then they repeat it through the rest of the
song. Which makes me warm to them as a band? Keep the mistakes.

The third album Some Cities has a drier sound and includes Black And White Town which sounds
like Heatwave by Martha and the Vandellas.

These soulful leanings shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Before
reinventing themselves as Doves they were Sub Sub and released Ain’t No
Love Ain’t No Use in 1993. It’s a phenomenal record. It sounds like
hotpants and has earrings the size of mirror balls. It’s one of those
records that jumps out of the radio and whisks you straight out of the
kitchen/garage/hole in the road and drops you in the middle of the dance
floor of the best night of the best club. Still holding your washing up

The new album Kingdom Of Rust was recorded over a fraught three years on a Cheshire farm, within ear shot of the Manchester airport and the motorway. The title track has come out as the single and while it is still obviously Doves, there are some new twists. There’s a Mariachi feel and this time round they are actually using volume. Yes the guitar solo is louder than the part that
preceded it! Revolutionary and it sounds great. It also sounds like a
cross between Zager and Evans In The Year 2525 and Love. Psychedelic
Spaghetti Country and (North) Western. I’ll have some that!