Doves fly with “Some Cities”

John-Paul Anthony

English satellite towns – love them or leave them. A few small, quintessentially British bands have been there before, scraping by with a constant eye on the hand of success that may one day pull them out of monotony and drop them into fame, fortune and London.

Need an example? How about Liverpool and the Beatles? Leaving behind a dead father and a mother who never saw him as anything more than a failure, John Lennon and the rest of the group left the archaic shipping port for an unparalleled run at being the best at what they did while being nationally recognized as such.

All right then, how about Manchester? While the Smiths vacillated between joyfully rebelling against the crowded desolation about them and letting the waves of despair wash over their creative output, Ian Curtis and the rest of Joy Division built their short career on acting as a mirror for their particular satellite town.

Oh, Manchester, you seem to have done it again. Somehow the damp desolation and bleak horizon have come together one more time to force out another band full of English music sensibility. After the release of their newest LP, “Some Cities,” Manchester trio Doves had better at least look into the London real estate or drown in their satellite town.

Doves formed in 1998 and have enjoyed relative success since then. Formed of bassist/vocalist Jimi Goodwin and twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams (guitar and drums, respectively), “Some Cities” is the third record released by the group, following 2000’s “Lost Souls” and 2002’s “The Last Broadcast.”

What Doves seemed to have attempted on this record is to erase Manchester’s mark on their creative canvas. The cocky strut that gives way to a rhythm section flirting with Latin influences on the track “Walk in Fire” sounds almost nothing like an English band, let alone one from Mancunia. Album opener “Some Cities” showcases the best rhythm guitar track to blatantly rip off the Velvet Underground since Jonathan Richman’s work with the Modern Lovers. In “Snowden,” one of the most accessible tracks of the album, Goodwin reveals to his audience that he knows of his band’s impending suffocation, but does so with a quasi-bratty utterance of the lines “we have been warned/it’s a classic sound/why should we care?”

Why should you care, Doves? Maybe it’s all the Manchester coming through your music despite your attempts to cover it. “The Storm” begins with syrupy synthesized strings giving way to a ghostly reverbed bass before the other layers of sound rush in to Londonize things. The ghosts of Manchester can almost be heard moving between the sparse piano and underwater bass of “Shadows of Salford.” And of course, there’s no hiding reality when the closing statement of the album is a slow burning lament with lines like “ambition can cut you down.”

Regardless, the album doesn’t play like the Jekyll and Hyde monster suggested by the stylistic clashings. Instead, everything undertaken by Doves ends up proving successful. The Manchester moments are less depressing than realistically beautiful, and the rest of the album is full of those sections that make the record one of the most rewarding to play.

Sure, the lead single “Black and White Town” is all sonic celebration (with an opening reminiscent of “Heatwave”), coupled with meditation on Manchester and its status as the soul-crushing satellite town, but it seems that Doves walk that fine line with a type of certainty. While Manchester will never crush them, the success this record will bring them should bring them a long way from being considered “Manchester’s band.”