Doves sound like something and nothing you’ve heard before: atmospheric, employing electronics sometimes to enhance sound, pulsating rhythms, and nice melodies. One might argue that all bands have these attributes, but Doves have a spark and something that gets your attention. It cannot be explained in words though, only through music: “Sea Song”, “Melody Calls”, “Words”, “There Goes the Fear”, “Almost Forgot Myself”, “Kingdom of Rust”, “10:03”- these are a sample of some of the best. Doves sound sweet but foreboding, like a messenger of the end of the world saying “it’s gonna be ok, but the world is ending so be ready.” Maybe that is too gloomy a definition, but really that is what comes to mind and it is easy/fun to get lost in each album. You always know what to expect from Doves, and while it usually involves greatness, it ALWAYS involves an intimate sonic journey. The word “dove” can also mean pacifist and that is an interesting description of their sound as they stand in a middle ground of sorts between traditional and experimental rock.
Jimi Goodwin – bass, vocals
Jez Williams – guitar, vocals
Andy Williams – drums
The Last Broadcast
King Crimson, Radiohead, David Bowie, Cocteau Twins, Echo and the Bunnymen
2000 – (4.5 / 5) – Lost Souls
2002 – (5 / 5) – The Last Broadcast
2005 – (3 / 5) – Some Cities
2009 – (4.5 / 5) – Kingdom of Rust
Lost Souls – (4.5 / 5)
The first Doves album is an atmospheric cauldron of energy and beauty. It takes you to the dark world the band inhabits but don’t get me wrong, this world is still fairly accessible. Lost Souls boasts some killer epic songs, and these songs overpower any weaker lulls while simultaneously powering up the album itself. Sound confusing? You would seriously have to listen to this album all the way through to get what I’m saying. There is a slight problem with building up momentum, always interrupted by a weaker song, but if one is in the right “mood” it hardly matters as the dreamy qualities of the album overpower your emotions. “Sea Song” and “Here it Comes” alone give birth to a new kind of trippy quality in rock music (the only comparison would be The Cocteau Twins), while the radio staple “Catch the Sun” and the heart breaking should be hit single “The Cedar Room” show off the poppier side of the band while never losing complexity. The latter song has one of the most heartbreaking choruses ever put to record, as Goodwin sings, “I tried to sleep alone but I couldn’t do it/ you could be sitting next to me/ and you wouldn’t know it/ if I told you you were wrong, I don’t remember saying it.”
Singers Jimi Goodwin and Jez Williams trade off songwriting duties and lead vocals to great effect throughout then record, the psychedelic throwbacks “Break Me Gently” and “Rise: being other highlights on a record consumed with lush imagery. Guitarist Jez Williams pens “Melody Calls”, and it is not only the best song on here, but a thing even more rare: a perfect pop song- truly one of my all time favs. Doves are an interesting comparison to fellow Englishmen Coldplay (especially with Coldplay’s Yellow sounding eerily similar to “The Cedar Room”), but to my ears Doves have a far superior originality even though there is a very similar sound; it is interesting to track these two bands throughout the decade, as both bands are among the most popular and bombastic the United Kingdom has to offer. Slight misfires to my ears include title track “Lost Souls” and closer “A House”, and the Calexico sound-alike “The Man Who Told Everything”. Luckily the high points of Lost Souls point to a great future for a band that can definitely write some great music and above all create an atmosphere of psychedelic rock that rivals any other.
Greatest Songs: Melody Calls, The Cedar Room, Sea Song, Catch the Sun
The Last Broadcast – (5 / 5)
The band tightens up for a more consistent set this time around, and creates a minor masterpiece with their second album. The Last Broadcast is very similar to the last record in sound, but there is a renewed sense of confidence present. You can hear it in the lyrics to the first song the Je Williams penned “Words”, “words, they mean nothing, so you can’t hurt me.” Though that his the best song on here, the rest are nothing to sneer at, as “Satellites”, “Caught by the River” and “Friday’s Dust” match anything on the previous album and add some emotional catharsis. “Pounding” is an accurate song title, because that is exactly what it sounds like- drums pounding- not to mention an overall U2 influence; “M62 Song” samples King Crimson’s “Moonchild” to great effect (you know, by only using the FIRST part of the song and not the plodding outro).
There really is not much to complain about with this record, even though “The Sulfur Man” and “The Last Broadcast” towards the last quarter of the record are kind of lackluster, they are not that bad (why is the title track always the worst song on the record? It’s a noticeable trend). A lot of people pick “There Goes the Fear” as the best song on here (and they are right), and that song and “NY” are the noticeable epic tracks that take some more getting use to with their six-minute plus lengths and rambling nature. These kinds of mature songs really add something that was not present before on the debut album, a layer of depth in the lyrics as well as honing the atmosphere in a more meaningful way. “There goes the fear / you turn around and life has passed you by / you look to ones you love to ask them why.” The poignant lyrics are matched by what could only be called a tasteful homage to Radiohead’s “No Surprises” as well as David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision”, but the song may end up being Doves defining track. If you are in the mood for some atmospheric pop music done in a unique way, The Last Broadcast tops the band’s first in terms of overall consistency, and who knows where they will go from here.
Greatest Songs: There Goes the Fear, Words, Friday’s Dust, Pounding
Some Cities – (3 / 5)
Unfortunately, the band decided to go “pop” all the way for this record. There is an easy to tell if a band is trying to go mainstream: 1) The production is polished to the max. Check. 2) The best songs are stuck at the beginning in a lure to the consumer to buy the album, and hence not as much thought is put into the album as a “whole” so it is less consistent; check again. The more successful arena rock bands use this strategy all the time to disguise the fact that most of the album was just made to back up the singles. It makes me mad that The Doves have done this, though honestly, the album is not THAT bad. In any case, the first three songs rock the hell out of you and make you feel like the band is still evolving. “Some Cities”, “Black and White Town” (with prominent keyboards), and “Almost Forgot Myself” are these songs, and they continue the tradition of strong male vocals from Jimi Goodwin mixed with very intricate guitar work.
After the opening salvo and the relatively languid but unimpressive “Snowden” and “The Storm”, the rest of the album fails to impress as much. “One of These Days” is a good example of a song that chugs along endlessly with no purpose; “Someday Soon” has a good ending, but the majority is boring; “Shadows of Salford” tries to be the “epic soft ballad” the band has on every record so far, but fails. “Sky Starts falling” does redeem the record somewhat at the end, the only failing is that it is too reminiscent of “Pounding” form the album prior. Kind of Ironic that a song called “Ambition” ends the album that is not ambitious at all, but instead very normal and disappointing, and why does it end with thirty seconds of silence? If the band wants to remain great, it needs to give the audience its full attention on the next album, and hopefully it will. Diehard fans might still wanna get this for the four or five good tracks, but its average to the core for an excellent band such as this.
Greatest Songs: Black and White Town, Almost Forgot Myself, Some Cities, Sky Starts Falling
Kingdom of Rust – (4.5 / 5)
On their final album, Doves achieve a rare synthesis of classic rock sound and experimental collage. Not every experiment works, but most of them do and the results are riveting. First off, title track “Kingdom of Rust” is a new classic Doves tune but with an added effect of xylophones and an western-martial percussion added; not bad for a band known mainly for being psychedelic (there is still plenty of that sound present). Jez Williams and Jimi Goodwin are all over the amp stylistically on this record, proven by the post disco vibes of opener “Jetstream” and the confident bass groove of “Compulsion”; the flat out blistering hard rock of “The Outsiders”, reminiscent of Led Zeppelin merging with U2; the experimental collage that stands as their most interesting piece to date, “10:03”, which starts as an old fashioned crooner ballad but shifts midway through to a menacing middle eastern mantra encompassing the entire history of rock music, and then ending soft the way it started.
If more songs would have maintained the high quality of “10:03”, this could have stood as the group’s best record. However, it is somewhat marred by a couple of lame diversions in the middle of the record: “The Greatest Denial” is typical Doves rocker but shoots itself in the foot every time it tries to get going, where as “Spellbound” and “Birds Flew Backwards” should have been scrapped completely and come off as vastly inferior to the remainder of Kingdom of Rust. Still, the record still has typical Doves rockers that while not breaking any new ground hold up to their classics of the past: “House of Mirrors” recalls “Pounding” but adds more studio tricks; “Lifelines is an dramatic closer a la “Caught By the River”; and “Winter Hill” updates their echoing guitar patterns for the 2010’s. Unfortunately, unless the band comes of from hiatus, this is the last album for Jimi Goodwin and te Williams Brothers. Perhaps they will find a way to reunite because they made three masterworks while together in under a decade, and the world needs more bands the cunning and vision of Doves.