The story of the Manchester alt rock band Doves is one of constant evolution. Formed by twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams – on guitar and drums, respectively – and bassist Jimi Goodwin in 1998, the band has released five albums that have bristled with creative genre-bending experimentation. With numerous No. 1 records in the UK and multiple Mercury Prize nominations, the band has simultaneously been a chart-topping juggernaut and adored by critics.
The musical partnership between the Williams brothers and Goodwin started long before Doves’ official formation. The trio formed a friendship after going to shows at the legendary Hacienda Club in 1989, and found success in their first band, the dance/electronic group Sub Sub who made a splash in 1993 with the hit single “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)” featuring singer Melanie Williams. After a fire ravaged their studio in 1996, the group decided to change their musical direction and form a new group: Doves. Here’s the story of the group in 15 songs.
(Lost Souls, Catch the Sun, The Cedar Room)
Doves 2000 debut album Lost Souls is an assured statement. While some bands try to throw as many musical ideas out in the first round of their career, the time-tested musical bond between Goodwin and the Williams brothers was already firmly cemented. No longer trying to fit in with the cool, colorful Madchester crowd, Doves’ debut album is a dark and atmospheric left turn.
With moody washes of synths and strings sometimes obscuring the band’s hooks, Lost Souls is a cross between late-period Beatles psychedelia and Talk Talk’s search for the Spirit of Eden. The first single, “The Cedar Room,” remains one of Doves’ very best songs, combining their signature murky sound with an earworm chorus. Although it can be limited in range, de facto lead vocalist Goodwin’s honey-soaked baritone has been the hallmark of the band’s biggest singles and strongest album cuts. His voice recalls a drearier version of Noel Gallagher or if Billy Bragg’s bark was softened into more of a croon. “Catch The Sun,” the album’s second single, is its sunniest and tuneful track that reflects the era’s Britpop craze.
The Last Broadcast
(Words, There Goes the Fear, Satellite, Caught by the River)
The slow, psychedelic burn of Doves’ Lost Souls set the table for their 2002 follow-up, The Last Broadcast. Its ambient intro (whose sound represents the album cover’s nighttime aerial view cityscape) leads into the Jez-penned “Words.” The song commands with its clanging drums and a shimmering guitar line that recalls early ‘80s U2. As the track progresses, the band adds melodic layers and harmonies that support Jez’s floating vocals. “Words, they meant nothing, so you can’t hurt me,” he reassures, “I said words, they mean nothing so you can’t stop me.”
Then comes one of Doves’ undisputed best songs, “There Goes The Fear.” Sung by Goodwin, the track introduced the band’s now-signature template: A plinking guitar lead repeats as the band builds upon the melody with glockenspiel, keys, pedal steel guitar, and a drum beat that takes on an almost bossa nova feel. After its seven-minute runtime, you’re left feeling hypnotized. “There goes the fear again,” he sings. “Let it go.”
“There Goes the Fear” was the first single from The Last Broadcast and it was followed up by the uplifting rocker “Pounding” and the album’s breathtaking closer “Caught By The River.” While “Pounding” reflects Doves’ open-to-anything mindset, “River” and the gospel-tinged ballad “Satellites” both showcase how far both Goodwin’s songwriting and singing had progressed in such a short time. With The Last Broadcast, the band retained the same spirit that made Lost Souls such an engaging experience, but were able to strengthen their arsenal to create their masterpiece.
(Snowden, Walk in Fire, Sky Starts Falling)
With The Last Broadcast gaining both critical and chart success – the album topped the UK charts and was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize – one couldn’t blame Doves for continuing to create uplifting mini-epics on their third album, 2005’s Some Cities. This time around, however, Doves bottled their brand of uplifting psychedelic rock into a collection of compact tunes.
The album debuted at the top of the UK charts and produced three singles: “Black and White Town,” “Snowden,” and “Sky Starts Falling.” “Snowden” and“Sky Starts Falling” are the most pop-minded tunes the band had released up to this point. While not on the level of Sub Sub’s plastic disco bliss, “Sky Starts Falling” generously piles a discordant guitar lead on top of its final chorus to create a palpable amount of tension.
“Walk In Fire,” the album’s centerpiece is also its strongest moment. Sung by Goodwin, the song begins as a modest plea to a friend to reexamine their drinking. The song builds in the same way as “There Goes The Fear” but doesn’t necessarily follow the same blueprint. Once it hits a climax, the band quiets down for a reverb-heavy dubbed out melodica solo. This is a Doves album we’re talking about, after all. Expect the unexpected.
Kingdom of Rust
Jetstream, Kingdom of Rust, 10:03)
It took four years for the band to release 2009’s Kingdom of Rust. In an interview with Drowned in Sound, Andy described why it took so long. “It probably sounds cliched,” he said, “but we still get a buzz out of trying to excite ourselves musically even after all these years. We actually had a lot of songs in 2007 but the general consensus among the three of us was that they weren’t really pushing the band out of our comfort zone into new territories.”
Ahead of the album’s release, the band offered up its first single “Jetstream” as a free download. Sung by Jez, the track could be considered the first “dance music” Doves have released since their early days in Sub Sub, with its pulsing Kraftwerk-esque drum machine beat and synth glitches.
The album moves directly into the title track’s autumnal feel. It almost sounds alt-country until the blistering post-punk riff and blasts of strings come in midway through. Later, on “10:03,” the band starts off with a somber doo-wop style instrumental. Goodwin sings a tender, longing vocal about catching a “fast train” home to the one he loves. In true Doves fashion, the song veers unexpectedly in the middle section, with one of the heaviest riffed-out moments in the band’s career.
The Universal Want
Kingdom of Rust seemed to revitalize Doves as a creative force, but the band decided to go on an “indefinite hiatus” to focus on different side projects after its release. It wasn’t until the band confirmed a one-off reunion gig as part of 2019’s Teenage Cancer Trust at The Royal Albert Hall that talk moved to a potential full-scale reunion. Shortly after, in an interview with Q Magazine, Goodwin confirmed that the band had been writing again.
The result was The Universal Want, released in September 2020. While both Some Cities and Kingdom of Rust sometimes seemed eager to please, the band seems to have benefited from the break. The album feels like a spiritual sequel to their debut, Lost Souls, with its unhurried pacing and dark, robust textures.
The Universal Want’s opener – and first single – “Carousels” is an unexpected shot in the arm. With a skittering drum beat sampled from the late Fela Kuti & Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen, the song offers some of the most mind-melding guitar freakouts Jez has ever put to tape. Later, on the upbeat track “Prisoners,” Goodwin delivers a line that could be interpreted as a wink to fans waiting patiently for a new Doves album. “Can you give me a sign, or give me your current state of mind?” he sings, “Old friend it’s been a while, we’re just prisoners of this life.”
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