2005, Rasputin Manifesto
What to say about Doves? The new-millenium Badfinger? (The voices of Badfinger's Pete Ham and Doves' Jimi Goodwin share some common qualities -- a warm, unassuming tenor that is equally at home in rockers or moody meditations, though most comfortable somewhere in between.) Symbolically connected to peace through its name? (Even the band's more high-energy tunes seem to deliver the listener to somewhere peaceful and transcendent.) Familiar yet new? (Sonically, they evoke Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Spiritualized, and even a bit of the aforementioned Badfinger, to a certain extent - Doves can sound sad, but never suicidal. There's always a tinge of hope and joy in their music.)
On their third album, Some Cities (Capitol), Doves' sound is marked by droning guitars, primitive drum beats, tambourine, and the voice of Jimi Goodwin. The concise title track mines Motown, the Velvet Underground and their own experiences around the world. Unlike their first two records, there is no trippy instrumental intro to serve as an opener. This is Doves, 2005.
It's a mopey British rock thing, the sound of shoegazers continuing to learn how to keep their chin up, the sound of them getting better at it. "Black And White Town" also finds Doves getting better at writing polished, irresistible singles. It's of the same ilk as "There Goes The Fear" and "Catch The Sun," only more aggressive, taking some cues from "Some Cities" and running off with them.
"Almost Forgot Myself" opens with a burst of Television (the band, not the device)-like strummed electric guitar chords, before settling into a that "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch" beat for a few measures (it shows up again in "One Of These Days" - the Pink Floyd similarities continue to mount!). Now the atmospheric wash of yesteryear is back, woven into the song and yielding some space to unaccompanied drums and bass, and later some power chords too, all in under 5 minutes.
By "Snowden," it's apparent that economy is the name of the game here. Doves have found a new formula, which bears all the hallmarks of their first two albums, and also allowing them to rock out and keep the songs reined in for maximum effect.
The new approach sounds a bit disjointed on "Someday Soon" - kind of kicks one's attention span around, heats up, cools down, begins, ends, begins again It's a strange piece, with all the Doves hallmarks, jumbled and mysterious in its arrangement, with straightforward lyrics - "someday soon you'll know how it feels to love someone" - that are among the most cliched they have used.
That's all made up for with "Sky Starts Falling," which is, pardon my own use of a cliché, beyond description. Let's just say I'm looking forward to pogoing to this one next time they hit the clubs.
The growth this band has achieved is admirable, and after multiple listens to this or any Doves release, it becomes more apparent how criminal it is that this band is overlooked in favor of British contemporaries like Radiohead, Coldplay, Starsailor, or even Oasis. Jimi Goodwin's voice has that warm, comforting quality that one picks up from hearing someone like David Gilmour or Ray Wilson, late of Stiltskin and the final incarnation of Genesis. This new record may not settle well with current fans right away. It's a grow-on-you record in a way, yet it's also more immediate than anything they have done before.