“Words they mean nothing, so you can’t hurt me”, croons Jez Williams on ‘Words’, precisely three minutes into Doves‘ second album. Hell, there’s
nothing like getting your retaliation in early. But anyone bearing any residual ill-will toward Doves and their extraordinary second album should leave the room right now. After all, It’s not as though – Jimi’s beard aside – they’ve ever shown signs of the flu-rock epidemic that’s swept erm, ‘guitar Britain’ since, oh, who knows, ‘OK Computer’ (symptoms in victims: pallid complexion; week-in-bed clothes; tunes that help you grieve more easily). Doves may be depressed, sure, but unlike, say, Elbow, they’re
never depressing. When Jimi Goodwin sings “You turn around and life’s passed you by” on epic seven-minute [a]Beach Boys[/a]-do-‘I Am The Resurrection’ single ‘There Goes The Fear’ it neither makes you want to dig out that rusty razor blade or wallow in the potential consequences of David Beckham’s fractured metatarsal bone. Instead, much like masters of the art U2, it just makes you want to holler along even louder. As their accountants might tell you, it’s quite a knack.
That’s not to say the much trumpeted positivity of ‘The Last Broadcast’ has brought out Doves‘ latent frivolous gene. As befits any self-respecting Manchester band, there’s always a thunderstorm of gloomy atmospherics lurking at any given chorus. A carbon cover of ‘Moonchild’ by dreamy prog-rockers King Crimson even gets poetically retitled ‘M62 Song’ and is explained away in the blurb as having been ‘recorded under a flyover’ just in case we might have thought Doves were getting a little, y’know, soft on us. Clearly, those food-fight videos remain a while off.
Musically, the thaw comes in waves of guitars which sound like keyboards and keyboards which sound like electronic ghosts gliding through deserted stately homes. Whatever they are, they give you the shivers. ‘Satellites’ has a gospel grandeur which nods to both Blur‘s ‘Tender’ and the liquid grace of Spiritualised‘s ‘Cop Shot Cop’, while Northern souls past and present flit through proceedings to pay their respects. The Beatles‘ ‘It’s All Too Much’ gets not so much of a face-lift as a face-launch in the epic ‘Words’; Badly Drawn Boy is shamelessly plundered in the title track and a Noel Gallagher-like knack for melody surfaces in a storming, Oasis-esque ‘N.Y’. Plus there’s shades of everyone from (hate to say it, but it’s true, goddammit) The Smiths to Echo And the Bunnymen to New Order
in the overall swamp of not-quite-rock melancholia. Imagine ‘Lost Souls’ injected with Prozac and a huge dose of weird guitar noises that give you goosebumps from head to toe. That’s ‘The Last Broadcast’. It’s one of those rare albums that makes sense first thing in the morning but you can still yell along to when your head’s exploding. Where, exactly, did all the duff tracks go?
Who cares. Words they mean nothing. Doves have just made the most uplifting miserable album you’ll hear all year. Wallow in it like a hot bath.