Doves: Some Cities

Adrien Begrand

Doves' first album in three years keeps things simple, with pleasing results.


Some Cities

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 2005-03-01
UK Release Date: 2005-02-21
Amazon affiliate

It's unfair to compare Manchester's Doves to Coldplay, but one has to wonder why over the last three years, Coldplay have managed to become one of the world's biggest rock acts, and not Doves. Here's a trio who, heavily influenced by the halcyon days of "Madchester" and The Hacienda, created a sumptuous blend of organic dance music, moody, ambient touches of dreampop, and some flawlessly crafted guitar rock, the sheer expertise of the band's debut album Lost Souls allowing the band to hit the ground running, easily one of this decade's most confident and accomplished debut releases. By the time 2002's The Last Broadcast came around, the band were legitimate stars in their homeland, the album topping the charts, and by the end of the year, amassing an impressive collection of first-rate (not to mention arena-friendly) singles, including "Catch the Sun" and "The Cedar Room" (from Lost Souls), and the superb trio of The Last Broadcast's "There Goes the Fear", "Pounding", and "Caught By the River". But while their compatriots in Coldplay hit the big time everywhere else, Doves were left to toil in relative obscurity outside the UK.

Now three albums in, Doves appear resigned to the fact that mainstream success in the United States might be out of their reach, and on their new album, Some Cities, instead of sounding desperate to impress everyone in fear of blowing it on their "crucial" third release, they remain comfortably settled in their own groove, willing to move at their own pace. Doves' evolution continues to be a very gradual one, each subsequent album containing subtle shifts in style, but never too far away from their distinctive sound. It's the kind of comfort level that will appease fans of the band, but unfortunately the band's understatedness might not attract many new North American audiences, who are always hungry for that one big breakout single.

While Lost Souls basked in the warm, fuzzy glow of gentle shoegazer/dreampop tones, and The Last Broadcast was more focused and clear-headed, ranging from glorious dance-inspired pop to sweeping, grandiose mini-epics, Some Cities has the band inching toward a more back-to-basics rock sound. To some, that may sound like the worst thing they could dare to do, but true to their form, the band's sound is never compromised. It's simply more direct, something you hear instantly on the title track, a simple bass and snare beat by drummer Andy Williams, Jez Williams' trademark chiming guitar chords, and bassist/vocalist Jimi Goodwin's unmistakably rich, resonant voice. It's the most stripped-down and relaxed Doves have sounded on an album yet, as they jam away loosely.

Those looking for a repeat of "There Goes the Fear" will be slightly disappointed, as Some Cities lacks a real knockout of a single (let alone three, like The Last Broadcast had), but overall, it has a consistency that the ambitious last album lacked. The soul-tinged "Black and White Town" is a quality single, though; Williams pounds out a simple, propulsive 2/4 beat, while simple electric piano stabs enter, Jez's waves of guitar effects swirling about, the band doing that slow build these guys know how to do so well, crescendoing with a sparkling chorus, as Goodwin vividly depicts the drabness of life in the suburbs ("In satellite towns/There's no color and no sound"). The jubilant "Snowden" marks a refreshing return to the drones of Lost Souls, but again, in a more direct way, as Jez's sirenlike guitar hook (which sounds as if underscored by a theremin) packs a wallop during the vocals-free chorus. Goodwin's blend of wordplay ("snowed in") and longing for the summer ("If this could be our last summer/ Then why should we care?") actually bears a strong similarity to Husker Du's classic "Celebrated Summer", which explores a similar theme. "Walk in Fire" lures us in with its ballad-like opening, but the slightest hint of a dance beat kicks in (it's great to see that influence is still there), and Goodwin gently takes us over the edge in the chorus, before gradually gaining momentum in its last two minutes. It's enough to make you realize how this kind of subtlety has been missing from U2's music for the last 14 years.

Jez Williams sings lead on the album's two most understated tracks; "The Storm" is awash in languid waves of strings and mellotron, highlighted by a forlorn harp solo, while the morose, piano-driven "Shadows of Salford" will remind many of "M62 Song", meaning they'll either tolerate it or hate it. The fact is, Doves are at their best when Goodwin is singing, exemplified by the atmospheric "One of These Days" and the downright jubilant "Sky Starts Falling", yet another one of those stadium rockers they do so well, which highlight the album's second half.

Some Cities is not as strong as its two predecessors, but it does continue the band's run of consistently pleasing albums, cementing their status as one of the most reliable rock bands in the UK today. It might not fly quite as close to the sun as the last couple of albums have done, but that's not to imply that Some Cities does not soar.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.