Best tunes of 2002: #17 Doves “Caught by the river”

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In the handful of years directly following my and Victoria’s big move to Ottawa, we lived a very frugal life. This was more out of necessity than aesthetic, given my student debt, Victoria’s concentration on finishing her master’s degree, and our measly collective earnings. Still, we often returned to Toronto to visit friends and family, but had to do so by spending the least amount of money possible, and in the periods where we didn’t have our own wheels, this meant long hours aboard the Greyhound bus fleet.

I particularly remember one such trip, an overnighter on the Friday of the August long weekend. And, well, the main reason I remember that it was that particular weekend is that we arrived just as the subway was opening on the Saturday morning and we had to wrestle our way into the subway station amongst the drunken crowds still partying after the opening night of Caribana. It wasn’t a fun experience to say the least, but perhaps I am digressing a bit too much here.

Right.

So I’ve never really been able to sleep on planes or trains, and especially not buses, no matter how tired I’ve been. I’m a pretty tall guy with spectacularly bad posture and can never get comfortable enough to catch proper rem sleep in those seats. However, I hadn’t actually come to that conclusion about myself in those days and still made every valiant effort. That particular evening, I had a new album by a new band in my discman and it went down so well through my earphones on the first spin, I repeated it. And I continued to do so for the entire five (plus) hour trip. As you might’ve guess by now, unlike Victoria beside me, I never properly fell asleep that night, just faded in and out, while the Doves and their sophomore album, “The last broadcast”, guided me through the surreal, not-quite subconscious journey, brightening an otherwise worthless night’s sleep.

This album drew me in and enveloped me for most of the following months. I was in love. I identified them with the dream pop and Madchester bands of the early 90s that I knew and loved. Their sound kept some of the dance aesthetic of their earlier incarnation as Sub Sub but it’s really the layers in the music that define who the Doves are. The music of “The last broadcast” is almost tactile, like running into a massive cobweb that wisps around you and grabs onto you, even as you try to break through it and break it down. It’s great music for driving at night and for listening to with ear phones. Believe me, I’ve tried both multiple times.

The track of our focus today, “Caught by the river”, always reminds me of R.E.M.’s “Find the river”. Perhaps because of the word “river” in the song title or perhaps because it is the finale track of another standout album. Both tracks are the perfect way to close out their respective album.

“You and I
Were so full of love and hope
Would you give it all up now?
Would you give in just to spite them all?”

The undulating strumming of the rhythm guitar emulate the feeling of being cast overboard and caught up in the crashing and splashing waves of a tumbling river. It’s a river in which the water is just fine, the chiming guitars and Goodwin’s soothing vocals ensure just that. And then, the eddies created by all the reverb and effects  just swallow you up whole and let you drift off into eternity. Ohhhhh yessssss.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

 

Top five tunes: Doves

Well, good morning… and, uh… happy new year.

I can hardly believe it myself, this being my first post of 2019.

It wasn’t a planned break or hiatus. I just wasn’t in a huge rush to get right back at it, what with the holidays and life happening in between. I hadn’t planned on taking so long and really, the longer I took to mobilizing myself, the more I realized I’d have to return with something a bit special. And what’s more special than a focus on one of my all-time faves to come out of the 2000s.

Who? Doves

Years active: 1998-2010, 2018-current

Band members:
Jimi Goodwin (lead vocals, bass, guitars)
Jez Williams (guitar, vocals)
Andy Williams (drums, vocals)

Discography:
Lost souls (2000)
The last broadcast (2002)
Some cities (2005)
Kingdom of rust (2009)

Context:
Doves have been front of mind recently for me because the slew of us that consider ourselves fans got an early Christmas present at the beginning of last month when news came down the pipe that the band was reforming. Interestingly, they never really broke up. The official word back in 2010 was hiatus. However, it was a hiatus that seemed interminable and the good but not Doves great solo and side project albums that appeared from its members only exacerbated our collective impatience. Recently, someone started an online petition to get them back together that really gained steam, it had a Twitter account and everything. And now, they’re back… but what that fully means is still a bit unclear. A handful of gigs in their native England have been planned and announced with more promised and rehearsals have started in earnest. At the time of writing this, we still don’t know if there will be tours outside of England, a new album, or vinyl reissues of their now classic back catalogue but one can hope that this reformation isn’t temporary.

Doves originally formed with their current lineup as Sub Sub in 1991. Jimi Goodwin met twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams at high school in Wilmslow, a town just south of Manchester, England. Sub Sub came about after they got reacquainted at the Haçienda and they released a bunch of singles and EPs through the 1990s on Rob Gretton’s record label. A fire at the band’s studio in 1996 meant they lost pretty much all their equipment and recordings and this inspired them to change gears and name. Doves’ atmospheric alt-rock was an obvious departure from the house and dance of Sub Sub when it appeared in the form of an EP in 1998. A couple more of these followed before their debut full-length appeared in 2000. Regular readers of this site might recall that a couple of songs from “Lost souls” appeared on my best tunes of 2000 list.

However, that album wasn’t my introduction to the group. It was “The last broadcast” that first caught my ear. I fell in love with that album on one of my many trips down to Toronto in the early days of living in Ottawa, back when our only mode of transport to home and back was by Greyhound bus. That particular ride was the overnighter on the Friday of the August long weekend. I had the album on repeat on my Discman for the entire five plus hours trek and it kept me company as I wavered in and out of sleep, ingraining itself into my subconscious. After that, “Lost souls” became my friend as well and each successive album became an anticipated event.

Doves released only four albums in total, all of them in the 2000s, before their hiatus took hold. Each of these is a favourite of mine and hence, each has its place near the top of my list of best albums for the years in which they were released. And given the appetite for their reformation, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. For me, it was a difficult task to choose only five great tunes from their catalogue, but I did manage to represent each of the band’s four long players. And I want to state now that I reserve the right to revisit this list in the future, should this reformation lead to new material because I am sure they’ve got same amazing new music left in them, just waiting to be unleashed on us. Here’s hoping, right fellow fans?

In the meantime, have a perusal of the songs below and as always, let me know your favourite Doves tunes. I’m always willing talk this band.

The top five:

#5: Walk in fire (from “Some cities”, 2005)

Kicking things off with song number five, it is a tune never released as a single from Doves’ third studio album, “Some cities”. This was the first album released after I had discovered them so it was also the first album that I had heaped expectations upon. This anticipation led to an initial letdown for me, the only time I experienced such a feeling with any of their albums. In fact, “Walk in fire” was an early favourite because it most closely resembled the work on “The last broadcast”. The rest of the album and its “stripped-down” approach has since grown on me but this one still remains the standout. It’s a song that builds over its five and a half minutes, which is something you might hear over and over again for these five tunes. Starting with a creak and a sigh, an arpeggio on the chiming guitars, and Goodwin wistfully singing about someone you could swear is from his past, or your past, the drums ease in after the first verse and the guitar effects hanging and teasing around thus far increase in insistence. By the time the chorus hits us with that line, “you’re not free till you walk in fire”, things have reached a pretty frantic dance pace. But it doesn’t stop there. Save for a brief respite at the bridge, where things ease off to give space for a lovely echo of keys, Doves keep raising the bar right to the end, stoking the flames to a mass conflagration. All you have to do is walk through it.


#4: Kingdom of rust (from “Kingdom of rust”, 2009)

Our next tune here is the title track and first single off Doves’ fourth and final album, “Kingdom of rust”. It is the second track behind album opener, “Jetstream”, both of which I fell in love with from the beginning. In fact, it took a bit of time to get past these two tunes, they just kept repeating, the rest of the album didn’t reveal itself to me for well over a week after I got it. “Kingdom of rust” is also the only tune by Doves my wife Victoria likes, which still blows my mind. (I obviously need to work harder on her.) I’ve tried to figured why this one particular song appeals to her when the others don’t but the reason eludes me. I’ve thought that perhaps it’s not as fast past paced or busy as some of the others. Yet this is incorrect, the pace is definitely high energy though it feels slightly tempered by Andy Williams opting for brushes over sticks on the skins. And even still, when his brother Jez decides to let loose on his guitar halfway through the song, the sticks return to play and they both unleash a fury. I also wondered if it was the liberal use of a string section, which never really hurts, to Victoria’s ear, though this isn’t the only track on which Doves employ the use of such orchestral sounds. I’m not sure I’ll ever figure it out but it’s a rocking track nonetheless.


#3: Pounding (from “The last broadcast”, 2002)

The second single released off Doves’ second album, “The last broadcast”, certainly lives up to its name. “Pounding” is a case of relentless drumming by Andy Williams. It is a heavy thump thump thump on the bass drum, as inescapable as the passage of time. It is energy and exuberance personified. It is Jimi Goodwin singing about the value of living in the moment and not getting hung up on the unimportant things, singing “I can’t stand by and see you destroyed. I can’t be here and watch you burn up.” It is a leap into hyperspace to chase down enemy tie fighters. It is Jez Williams doing his best The Edge impersonation about halfway through the song, wailing away on his guitar like he still hadn’t found what he was looking for. It is a great driving tune. Nay, I don’t how many times I have cranked the volume on this one in my car and each time the speedometer needle has crept up by itself and I’ve had to lighten my gas pedal foot. If you want a burst of energy and a jolt of good mood, here’s your song.


#2: The man who told everything (from “Lost souls”, 2000)

“The man who told everything” is the third single to be released off “Lost souls” and coincidentally, came in at number three on my best tunes of 2000 list. Forgive me if I plagiarize myself from that earlier post it because, well, I’m not feeling up to reinventing the wheel today. “‘The man who told everything’ is big, bold, and beautiful. But don’t mistake my words for inferring that this tune is high energy frenzy. Instead, for all the excitement of the words, the music has a more muted pace. The guitar strumming matches the easy drumming at the outset but at each chorus, another layer of guitars and string effects is added that has an arduous quality, at once daunting and stubborn and unforgiving. I don’t how to else to describe it. It’s brilliant though. I like to listen to this one late at night, lights dimmed, earphones on, volume up, eyes closed, a pint not far from hand, and just let the waves of it all crash over me. So much awesome.”


#1: There goes the fear (from “The last broadcast”, 2002)

Of course, you knew that if the band only had four albums and each was represented, there would have to be an album that was represented twice. And of course, that album would have to have been “The last broadcast”, my introduction to the band, as mentioned above, and my still favourite of their albums. “There goes the fear” was the first single released from the album and was one of those that was deleted on the same day it was released so only a lucky few out there have a physical copy of the single. It can more easily be found as track three on “The last broadcast” and is most definitely ranking up there as one of my favourite ever tunes. Yes. Just listen to it. It is nearly seven minutes of pure danceable bliss. The guitar work that strings its way through its entirety reminds me of those old toys that you cranked and it played a tune that could speed up or slow down depending on the speed of your cranking. The drum beat, though not as insistent as on “Pounding”, is no less energizing, almost frenetic, tribal and hypnotic, driving you to the dance floor like an adrenaline surging drug. This song and its slow build of layers, stepping it all up to a point of manic ecstasy is the template for songs on to come on later albums, like “Walk in fire” (see above). But it is almost pure perfection here. I could just listen to it forever.


For other top five lists in this series, click here.

Best tunes of 2000: #3 Doves “The man who told everything”

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At the number three spot is another fantastic track by Doves, the only band to make more than one appearance on this Best tunes of 2000 list, the other being at number #10 with “Catch the sun“. Both songs are from the band’s stunning debut album, “Lost souls”‘, an album I didn’t actually hear until two or three years after the fact but one that has since reached the upper echelons in my all-time favourites conversations.

“The man who told everything” is the third single to be released off the album and lyrically, though I can’t be absolutely sure, appears to follow the same sort of themes expounded in single number two, “Catch the sun”.

“Get out of bed, pick up the phone, time to tell the press
Say to myself, I can’t do no one else, there’s a whole world outside
I’m gonna tell it all, I’m gonna sell it all, I’m gonna sell
Get out of bed, come out and sing, blue skies ahead, the man who told everything.”

It’s almost like the band were writing about how they were feeling at the time of making the record. Being that it was a very long process and that they were drastically changing their approach to music, they couldn’t wait to unleash “Lost souls”. It all feels very transformative, like their cocoon had become way too small for all their grand ideas and they were bursting to get it all out into the big blue world and into the sunshine. They didn’t want to hold anything back and in this excitement, seemed to be pushing everyone else to do the same. Live big and bold.

And the music expounds all that. “The man who told everything” is big, bold, and beautiful. But don’t mistake my words for inferring that this tune is high energy frenzy. Instead, for all the excitement of the words, the music has a more muted pace. The guitar strumming matches the easy drumming at the outset but at each chorus, another layer of guitars and string effects is added that has an arduous quality, at once daunting and stubborn and unforgiving. I don’t how to else to describe it. It’s brilliant though. I like to listen to this one late at night, lights dimmed, earphones on, volume up, eyes closed, a pint not far from hand, and just let the waves of it all crash over me. So much awesome.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.