The period right around the turn of the millennium was a good one for music fans, as whatever was in the air at that time resulted in a fairly large cluster of memorable releases. Established acts like Radiohead, David Gray, and Yo La Tengo put out highly regarded albums, while some up-and-comers and lesser-knowns like Joe Henry, Moby, and The Flaming Lips released records that put them on the musical map. And there were some notable debuts – Coldplay, Sigur Ros, Elbow, and Doves among them.
Doves had originally been formed as an electronic music band called Sub Sub in 1991, and had a top five UK hit in 1993. In 1996 their recording studio burned down, destroying most of their equipment. They chose to reform as a “regular” rock band, and in 1998 the new band Doves was (re)born.
Lost Souls, their debut, came out in April 2000 in the UK, and in October of the same year in the U.S. The album got good reviews on both sides of the pond, but did much better commercially in the UK, where it spawned three top 40 singles, hit no. 16 on the charts, and was nominated for the Mercury Prize. I first read about it in a review in one of the major Pittsburgh newspapers. If I remember correctly the reviewer gave it three out of four stars and mentioned its “post-punk” and “shoegaze” elements. That was enough to get me interested, and I bought a copy as soon as I could. It’s been a top-shelf favorite ever since.
I remember listening to it the first time: at home, on headphones. I was struck immediately by the sound, but also by the thought that it takes a fair amount of confidence to open a debut album with a downtempo trip-hoppy instrumental number, especially one that lasts almost five minutes. “Firesuite” sets the tone for the rest of the album though, not so much in terms of style, but in terms of sonics and “feel.” Lots going on there, and you immediately gather that these guys know their way around the studio.
The second tune, “Here It Comes,” breaks in almost immediately after the first track ends, and is slightly more up-tempo, driven by piano, and featuring a “treated” vocal, something which appears on several other tracks as well. The record picks up the tempo with the fourth track, “Sea Song,” a bit of folky psychedelia in 6/8 time:
which is then followed by “Rise,” not only my favorite song on the record, but one of my favorite songs of the past 20 years. To my mind it’s five-and-a-half minutes of perfection.
If U.S. listeners are familiar with any of the songs on here, it’s likely to be “Catch the Sun,” which was a minor “alternative” hit and which you still hear from time to time on the sort of playlists that run in malls, department stores, and restaurants. It’s also the album’s most up-tempo, straightforward rock number.
Another highlight is “The Cedar Room,” which was one of the UK singles and is probably the most shoegaze-y of the songs. In fact, the only track on the record I don’t really care for is the title cut, which is okay but to my mind goes on a little long.
The band followed Lost Souls in 2002 with an almost equally good album called The Last Broadcast, slightly less edgy and a bit lighter in tone. Two subsequent albums were more mainstream and in my opinion weaker overall, and currently the band is on hiatus.
What appeals to me most about this record is the combination of the songs and the sound. It’s got enough of an experimental sonic edge to make it interesting, but not so much that the songs lose their musical quality. It’s a great record to listen to in the car, turned up loud, but even more so Lost Souls is a headphone listener’s dream. So much interesting stuff going on!
—Rob Grano has a degree in religious studies which he's put to good use working on the insurance side of the healthcare industry for the past 20 years. He's published a number of book and music reviews, mostly in the small press, and sometimes has even gotten paid for it. He lives outside of Pittsburgh, Pa.