With its stock placed faithfully in the 1990s garage band sounds of old, London’s Doe has already carved a cult niche for itself on the indie rock scene. Embracing homebrewed retro rock sardonicism like a well-tempered winter beverage, frontwoman Nicola, drummer and vocalist Jake, and guitarist Matt more or less serve punky ‘90s attitude on a platter. The question of their first four EPs, collectively amalgamated into the appropriately-titled First Four LP, is what sacrifices, if any, did they as a band have to make, sonically, in order to properly fill this niche; and, in the end, is their sound revolutionary, in a sense, or a mere panache catering to millennials’ nostalgic tendencies?
Right from the get-go, there’s an early Rivers Cuomo-esque love of charmingly drone vocal delivery dripping in saccharinely cynical irony courtesy of Nicola. Pair this with tinny, prepossessing instrumental production and you can tell that they are, at the very least, aiming to be a legitimate band in what has now become a relatively cranny-like space in the punk-rock industry. For the most part, there is a respect to be had in what is not only a faithful catering to the ‘90s come and gone, but a feeling of true inspiration garnered from that sound on behalf of Doe. They never feel like liars and cheaters shamelessly attempting to indulge the scene, but restful jongleurs on a quest to resurrect a style unfortunately gone by.
The most major overall problem with First Four is that it hardly qualifies as a real first full-length album for the band. Doe had already recorded all 13 of the tracks prior to their being brought into an ensemble for this release, making this, as it stands, more of a compilation disk than anything. The EPs are literally stacked one on top of the other in descending order from first to last, making the overall organization of the album rather messy. While their quiet confidence and ingenious ingenuity are perfectly admirable, and one can easily hear where they could go with a real full-length release down the road, First Four as a singular entity can be hard to stomach in one go due to the overbearing similarities between certain tracks. There’s something same-sound-y about the entire thing when you give it a one-shot go all the way through, and overtime, the band’s throwback garage punk style can start to lose its flair.
The songs which comprise First Four are best had in spurts. There is a certain irony in having an album comprised of straight rips of EPs being most enjoyable when being listened to as if they were still just that, but it is a certifiable truth when everything starts running together. However, Doe are a genuine punk band in a not-so-genuine modern punk scene, and for what it’s worth, the songs, individually judged, are all rather solid in their delivery. They need to be able to show the world more of what they can do in terms of dynamics to have any real staying power, but the potential is there and just waiting to be uncovered.
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