Bold, pompous, shimmering. Up until now, these were terms that aptly described Doves’ sound. The Manchester, England-based trio’s first two offerings, 2000’s Lost Souls and 2002’s The Last Broadcast, did the Britpop thing with neon-lit grandeur. All multi-instrumentalists, Jimi Goodwin and twin brothers Andy and Jez Williams built palaces out of swooning, silky guitars, thumping, restless percussion, and studio wizardry. These were records the Verve or the Stone Roses could have made if they’d stuck around for the millennial dawn.
Some Cities, however, has added to that cosmic vocabulary. “Sky Starts Falling” and the title track are loose, raw, free-wheeling numbers — no less brash than previous tunes, but certainly trimmer now that the crew has learned to relax that itchy reverb finger. With many of the guitars left amp-crackle naked and the cymbals jumping out of the speakers, Some Cities is definitely not the Doves we knew.
There are moments of nostalgia, but they are the least satisfying on the album. “Someday Soon” is all primetime melodrama — as in “Someday soon you’ll know how it feels to love someone” — dressed in reverb swill. Instead, Doves excels when the rawk is mixed with the shoegaze. The keening Hammond organ and downright funky bass line on “Almost Forgot Myself” are straight out of Detroit circa 1967, but the droning guitar riding shotgun through the verses gives the song’s heritage away. Still, none of this jungle love detracts from the song’s ferocity.
With Some Cities, Doves has done something few of their fellow Brits with delay pedals and a good love story can claim. They’ve taken Britpop, one of rock’s stodgiest genres, and loosened it the hell up, preferring an irresistible beat or a spark of feedback to a trill of violins or a chorus of backing vocals. Goodwin’s no Dylan, but his lyrics have expanded apace with the music. Past efforts had their moments of star-lit transcendence, but Some Cities has proven itself a more agile, friendlier beast, full of surprises and bursting with energy.