The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

“Caught By The River” – An Introduction to Doves

Lost Souls (2000)

Containing re-worked versions of highlights of their first three EP releases alongside new material, Lost Souls is one of the most impressive and memorable indie debuts of the Noughties. Although they had lost their career as Sub Sub to a devastating studio fire, Goodwin and the Williams brothers kept the spirit of dance alive in the elongated structures and trance-inducing grooves of their first Doves album. It also worked as a tribute to the rich musical heritage of their home city of Manchester, boasting the musicality of The Smiths, as well as the brooding miserablism, and the drug-fuelled hedonism of New Order.

But although it was claustrophobic and intense, with brooding soundscapes like ‘Sea Song’ and ‘Rise’ the most sombre moments, there was euphoria and redemption to be found amid the grimy, after-hours atmosphere created by the band’s own rich, layered production. This found expression in the cavernous, seven-minute break-up epic ‘The Cedar Room’, and the seductive melancholy of ‘Melody Calls’ and ‘The Man Who Told Everything’Lost Souls was a slow-burning commercial success, got nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and got the career of one of Britain’s greatest recent guitar bands under way. (9/10) (LISTEN)

Music video for ‘Catch The Sun’

The Last Broadcast (2002)

In contrast to the monochrome behemoth of their debut, Doves chose to infuse the smoky, grimy musical template they had established with a few more splashes of light and colour. The production was as richly layered as Lost Souls, but this time the arrangements were opened out more, and felt less oppressive, thanks in part to the work of Steve Osborne behind the desk. Consequently, The Last Broadcast soared rather than brooded – right from the point that the majestic ‘Words’ took flight, this was altogether a more uplifting experience. The heavy, onomatopoeic percussion of ‘Pounding’ bore the song up to the heavens, rather than acting as an anchor.

The pace was also varied on the heartbroken, gospel-influenced lament of ‘Satellites’, and on a curiously wonderful acoustic re-work of a King Crimson track on ‘M62 Song’, while texture and different instrumentation were explored on the woodwind-driven ‘Friday’s Dust’ and the orchestrated ‘The Sulphur Man’. However, the heart-in-the-mouth emotion of the glorious closer ‘Caught By The River’ stole the show right at the end. Full of windswept drama from this most distinctively northern of English bands, it was Doves’ second great album in a row and topped the British charts, proving to be a massive hit for indie imprint Heavenly. An era ended with the release of 2003 B-sides album Lost Sides, before the band went away for a re-think for album number three. (9/10) (LISTEN)

Music video for ‘Pounding’

Some Cities (2005)

Having taken their sound as far as they were comfortable with, peaking in a memorable concert at Cornwall’s Eden Project after The Last Broadcast, Doves underwent a minor musical overhaul to stave off creative stagnation. Some Cities presented a diverse array of moods and sounds under a broad thematic umbrella of architectural and spiritual changes in the band’s home city of Manchester. Lead single ‘Black And White Town’ was built on a thunderous Northern Soul stomp, and provided another Top Ten hit for the band. Andy Williams’ brittle ‘The Storm’ felt almost like a Four Tet chill-out track, while the gentle ‘Almost Forgot Myself’ took flight in an entirely different manner to their previous career highlights. Closing track ‘Ambition’, recorded in a disused church that was about to be demolished, ranks as one of Doves’ most beautiful moments ever.

However, a few many moments towards the end of Some Cities felt insubstantial to place it near the brilliance of its two predecessors. The bracing, spectral ‘Snowden’ is the closest concession to ‘old Doves’ on the record, and even that implodes in a mass of bottom-end guitar crunch at the critical point. The aimless bluster of ‘Sky Starts Falling’ and the half-formed ‘Shadows Of Salford’ both seem unfinished, while ‘One Of These Days’ simply felt like filler. At critical moments, Ben Hillier’s production made the group’s sound too dissolute to really hit home, despite a number of striking tracks. Some Cities is fascinating to revisit, but remains Doves’ least satisfying record. (6/10) (LISTEN)

Music video for ‘Black And White Town’

Kingdom Of Rust (2009)

Working with veteran producer John Leckie (Radiohead, The Stone Roses, The Fall) for their fourth album, Doves took their time in making Kingdom Of Rust. All the hall-marks of the band’s post-Britpop origins were detectable, but a decade on from the band’s formation they were successfully cross-hatched with other sounds. The krautrock pulse of opening track ‘Jetstream’, the spaghetti western/Morricone feel of lead single ‘Kingdom Of Rust’, the vaguely Spiritualized-esque psychedelic trance of ‘Winter Hill’, and the dolorous funk of ‘Compulsion’ made for some of Doves’ very finest individual tracks, and as an expression of diversity within their sound, Kingdom Of Rust was much more successful than Some Cities. Even the trudge of ‘House Of Mirrors’ had some wonderful cinematic swishes to engage the listener.

Granted, the album’s first half was stronger and more engaging than the second, but the reverb-heavy and cello-driven ‘Birds Flew Backwards’ and the cathedral-sized ‘The Outsiders’ felt like ideas that had been worked through to their logical conclusions, a key difference compared to Some Cities. At its best, Kingdom Of Rust matched the sense of bliss and catharsis evoked by the band’s glorious first two records, but did so by using a wider array of methods. To the surprise of many, Doves announced an indefinite hiatus upon the completion of the lengthy tour accompanying Kingdom Of Rust the following year. (8/10) (LISTEN)

Music video for ‘Kingdom Of Rust’

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