Ten years after it was released, this album still gives me a bit of the shivers. The debut album of this trio, Doves, was a big step forward that did not get a lot of initial notice, but gathered momentum due to its atmospheric qualities, and paved the way for their second, and even more commercially successful album, The Last Broadcast. I chose this album because of my experiences with it when I lived in Philadelphia, and commuted to New Jersey for work. Its percussion, despite its simplistic beats, delves deeply in a very casual manner. The opening track, “Firesuite”, carries a phased, tremmed-out guitar chord progression through that makes you feel as if you are flying across the city on a phoenix. The multi-layered guitars carry a variety of tonal differences, all well-calibrated to compliment each other, and all bringing a melancholy to the music that forebodes a sense of understanding the underlying sadness of our lives when we feel like no one else really understands us. A great opening for an instrumental track.
“Here It Comes” and “Break Me Gently” both are reminiscent of the Beatles-influenced Brit-Pop sound that waxes and wanes in popularity over in London-Town. At the time that this record released, it was beginning to rise again, and this trio was at the forefront of those bands who co-opted the sound. The organization of keys, including piano and organ, as well as the structure of the guitar and bass, interweaves just as it should. The difference with these tunes is that where their peers tend to focus on the more upbeat sound, these boys make their living at the edge of the foggy gray, where people who are prone to mood swings tend to travel.
The lyrics on most of these songs are almost negligible; the words really are not important in the scheme of things, much like the shoegazer scene of the early 1990s. The sound of the vocals, is treated as an adaptable instrument, conveying an overall atmosphere which borders on desolate, with occasional overtones of hope. On songs such as “Sea Song” “Rise”, and “Lost Souls“, the band takes the listener on voyages, which almost sound like overseas adventure or a sailor’s lament.
“Melody Calls” carries a more almost cabaret-esque swing, although it retains those Brit-Pop sensibilities, and we even here a bit of xylophone tone throughout, as an accent. I feel almost transported to a carnival! “Catch The Sun” got some airplay on the college and alternative radio stations, and it reminds me outright of one of my favorite bands, Swervedriver. Even the vocal tone and rhythm are reminiscent of Adam Franklin. This is a GREAT driving song. Try listening to it in your car.
The last four tracks seem to carry a storytelling quality to them. “The Man Who Told Everything” sounds almost desperate and acoustic, as if the world is nearly over. “The Cedar Room” picks up and carries it back into the sunlight. I’ve always liked the way it almost feels as if Sol is breaking the clouds. The harmonica and guitar-produced train sounds are amazing. “Reprise” is just a small transitional reprise of the closing melody to “The Man Who Told Everything”, making an excellent lead-in to “A House”, which is one of the best acoustic guitar songs I have ever heard since Nick Drake. It carries all of those traits that made Drake famous, but the vocal carries it to a place Nick Drake could never have gone. When I hear the words “And I try to see the good in everyone”, I cringe from the emotion that the words carry. Simple but effective. Don’t get me wrong, it is an incredibly depressing song, dark as most of the rest of the album, but the closing of the album couldn’t have been done any better.
OVERALL: On a scale of one to ten this album earned a strong eight and a half. It is too dark to listen to all the time, without bringing one’s self to the brink of a pit of depression, but it is an excellent mood album.