You would be forgiven for thinking that all new serious British guitar groups have to sound like [a]Jeff Buckley[/a] or [a]Radiohead[/a], that there is no alternative. In the continued absence of those artists – and, hey, what’s [a]Jeff[/a] going to do about that anyway? – it’s all too easy to make sad music sound truly depressing.
Doves gloriously buck the trend. Yes, this is a serious and intense record – it’s called ‘Lost Souls’ after all. And, sure, at times it reverberates with a windswept hugeness. But ‘Lost Souls’ is no dullard retread and there is no obvious lineage. You can hear shades of Talk Talk and the wispy psychedelia of Shack, maybe even The The, but above all you hear a time and a place. You’ll know the place: it’s called Manchester, and Doves fit their hometown Photofit perfectly. Think of ‘Live Forever’ with the whoosh of Johnny Marr playing on it instead of Noel and you’ve an inkling of the record’s scope.
The time, meanwhile, is the shimmering morning-after the no-sleep-at-all night: the sound of those hours before dawn when the senses may still be heightened but when daylight has cleared one’s perception. It’s an Ecstasy comedown record, but before the final crash. And maybe that’s who these former members of one-hit dance wonders Sub Sub have written it for, for the lost souls who (like Doves themselves no doubt) left the ’80s enthusiastically juiced on E and optimism only to spend the next decade slowly crashing and burning.
The album’s spine is plainly their anthemic singles ‘The Cedar Room’ (this year’s ‘All You Good Good People’?) and the rousing, let’s-remind-Oasis-how-it’s-done ‘Catch The Sun’, but it’s the rooms that lead from this central corridor that surprise most. Songs like the gently trippy instrumental flicker of ‘Firesuite’ or ‘Here It Comes’ – essentially The Beatles‘ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ played by The Style Council – show how wide Doves‘ field of vision is, but the most enthralling passage is the 11 minutes that frame ‘Rise’ and ‘Lost Souls” title track.
These two songs alone chart new and comely shores of melancholic psychedelia. ‘Rise’ is a volcanic explosion of melodically lovely sadness, while ‘Lost Souls’ is like having your face brushed with warm and brightly coloured light as Jimmy Goodwin dolefully intones,”Every little thing that I say you just can’t ignore/She consoles/For she cries for all the lost souls” over fluttering organs and drums.
Do the sums (Mancunian melancholia + woozy psychedelia + sonic whoosh) and you’re left with the first great debut album to come from Manchester since ‘Definitely Maybe’. Doves may not have any of the attitude, youth or sartorial influence of their forebears but, by God, they make being sad after drugs sound great.