Best tunes of 2001: #3 The White Stripes “Fell in love with a girl”

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In 2001 and 2002, garage rock emerged to take the mantle as champion of the indie rock resurgence. The epicentres of the revival were New York, whose scene was led by Interpol and The Strokes (appearing at #5 on this list), and Detroit, from which came The Detroit Cobras and The White Stripes.

Yep. Before Third Man Records, The Dead Weather, The Raconteurs, and a rather notable solo career, Jack White was in a little band called The White Stripes. Formed in 1997 with then wife, Meg, whose last name Jack took when they wed, the duo recorded six albums together before disbanding in 2011. The White Stripes became known for their tightly stylized image – they were most notably rigorous in the use of their red, white, and black colour scheme – and their blues-inflected sound, Meg’s stomping, bass heavy beats, and Jack’s raunchy guitars and raw vocals. Indeed, as things went on, they became less connected with their garage rock roots and more about blues revival.

Interesting, then, that their breakthrough came with their least blues-influenced album, their third, “White blood cells”, and this exciting single that had no traces of it whatsoever. “Fell in love with a girl” sounds like it was it borne out of the garage that welded together the pieces of the garage that housed the rock. It’s a quick adrenaline blip that doesn’t even make the two minute mark. At that length, you can almost hear Jack screaming, “there’s no time for an intro – we gotta go!”. The drums are muddy as hell and violent, Meg channelling her inner animal. Jack even sounds like he’s having trouble keeping up with her and his own raucous guitar work with his vocals, almost breathless for the duration, his attempts at proper diction dispensed with and you have no trouble imagining his gummed up mic covered in spittle. There’s anger and disdain and the feeling of betrayal.

It’s almost exhausting how great this tune is. Enjoy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 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 albums of 2018: #1 The Decemberists “I’ll be your girl”

After The Decemberists’ relatively recent hiatus from recording and touring, I found myself very surprised to learn in January of this year that a new album was forthcoming so soon after their seventh release. Indeed, it had felt like “What a terrible world, what a beautiful world” had just been released, when in fact it was actually three years before. My initial miscalculation was likely because I had just seen the group the previous summer and they were still out supporting that previous album. So yeah, surprised I was but it was even greater when I heard the first single, “Severed”.

Much has been made in the press and otherwise about the Portland-based indie folk group’s change in sound on their latest, this album, “I’ll be your girl”. Frontman Colin Meloy, himself, has admitted that they drew from their teenaged crushes on Depeche Mode and New Order when they decided to add synthesizers to their already large arsenal of instrumentation for this album. Indeed, at first listen, it is almost jarring to a long time listener but the more you listen, the more you realize that this is still the Decemberists you know and love. And really, the band has never shied from experimentation and dabblings in different styles and genres. They’ve done the sea shanties, twee and indie pop, prog rock, and run the folk gamut from American to British to Eastern European traditions. Synth pop à la Decemberists is the welcome and next logical progression, no? Just nod yes.

The Decemberists are also known for their songwriting, especially the clever lyrics by Colin Meloy, and this is still very much a touchstone of this album. He’s been less esoteric and more accessible on recent works and here, he continues the trend, though there are still a few moments that will please longtime fans and cause casual listeners to scratch their heads. What I love about this album, though, like a few others we’ve already seen on this list, is that our songwriter addresses the madness that seems to be increasing around him but chooses to face it with positivity rather than hatred and anger. It’s an album that makes me happy whenever I put it on and I think that’s a great reason for it to be considered the best album of the year.

Have a listen to the three selections below and perhaps they will make you happy as well. However, if cheeriness is not the main quality by which you choose your favourite album of the year, I’d love to hear what you’ve got at the top of your list in the Comments section after the post.


“Sucker’s prayer”: This first pick is actually an exception to the upbeat rule of the rest of the album. I mean, really, just listen to the chorus: “I’ve been so long lonely and it’s getting me down. I wanna throw my body in the river and drown.” It’s so over the top that we know this can’t possibly by Colin Meloy singing autobiographically. It’s also thematically prototypical to what we used to imagine Country music to be, down in the dumps where nothing can go right. And the music is right there with it, downtrodden blues buried deep within Americana piano tinkles and sustained organ. And that aforementioned chorus begs to be sung along with, come on in, have a drink, cry a little, and join us in prayer.

“Severed”: As I mentioned above, this one here was the first single and teaser we got from this new album and what a shock it was to some. I admit myself to playing it and still being surprised even after hearing the whisperings on the internet. My wife Victoria was sitting across the living room on her tablet and asked “Is that The Decemberists?!”. I could only nod and play it again. The synthesizers set the tone right from the start and throw you off the scent but once you find it again, you definitely remember why you love this band. It’s a song that rocks. It roars along like a black car on an old deserted road, its bright lights laying down the path on its suicide mission.

“Once in my life”: This final selection was the second single released off the album and also its opener. It begins with Meloy singing solo to the strum of his guitar, making a plea to universe not unlike that of Morrissey in a certain Smiths classic. Yet this is The Decemberists and things pick up from there, the bass slides in, backing vocals join in, instruments are added, including the surprising but welcome synthesizers, and the piece becomes joyful. The accompanying video is one that continues the theme of hope and it was while reading Colin Meloy’s statement upon it that I learned his son Hank is autistic. In his words: “When I’m out in public with Hank, I’m acutely aware of the world’s attachment to social and behavioral norms; in these situations, Hank’s otherness can suddenly be put in stark relief. Through the lens of Jacob’s [the video”s protagonist] joyful and defiant movement in Autumn’s video, we see a man shrugging off the constraints of an unaccommodating and judgmental world and truly reveling in his body and mind.” Yep. I need say no more.


In case you missed them, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. David Byrne “American utopia”
9. James “Living in extraordinary times”
8. The Limiñanas “Shadow people”
7. The Essex Green “Hardly electronic”
6. Colter Wall “Songs of the plains”
5. Middle Kids “Lost friends”
4. Spiritualized “And nothing hurt”
3. Nap Eyes “I’m bad now”
2. Frank Turner “Be more kind”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.