Still waters running deep, and all that jazz.
Ever since not winning the Mercury Music lash-up thingy, Doves have clearly decided to obliterate their disappointment amid a flurry of activity. So it is that, with the fateful verdict still ringing in their collective lug-space, they find themselves messing around on a river. The Batofar fulfils most sweaty club requirements – indifferent live sound, clutches of punters who, having queued for ages, then proceed to blab their way through the duration – and then comes over all unique by listing sharply starboard. The threat of travel sickness is very real.
Playing on a boat, albeit one tethered firmly to the banks of the Seine, seems a perfect choice for a band whose doomy twist on trad-rock sufferance oozes high drama. They do, after all, have a song called ‘Sea Song’, and aren’t afraid to play it. In a year when the great British public have endorsed such resolutely landlocked versions of happy-sadness as [a]Travis[/a]’, and of their all-too-cosy heirs apparent Coldplay, so Doves represent a rather more turbulent vision. This is the Big Music as it was patented in the ’80s, a simpler, more innocent age when Waterboys and Bunnymen walked the earth, to which they’ve brought their own already distinctive aura. Their gnarled visages and cowed postures confirm what the sound suggests: listen up, boys and girls, we’ve lived it so you don’t have to.
Thus Doves set sail this evening looking like they’ve just kissed their loved ones goodbye, unsure if or when they might see terra firma again. Virtually every song carries the threat of something fairly awful on the horizon, even if it’s just a broke-down guitar. Riding initial technical hazards with a stoic’s smile, Jimi Goodwin is our hardy skipper, navigating the adverse currents with inspirational zeal, his syrupy moan somehow raising the standard of hope amid the gloom. So profound is their bedrock swirl, it hardly seems to matter that Doves overall remain a triumph of scope over detail. Besides ‘Catch The Sun’, they lack the existential hammer to propel them to a wider constituency. For one thing, that song surfs so keenly, it el