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Doves

+ {Sub Sub} + {Jimi Goodwin} + {Black Rivers}

Winging it from their days as acid-house/rave act, SUB SUB, the soaring DOVES latched on to the tail-end of the Britpop scene, and thus extending the lifespan of the genre post-millennium. Chart-topping albums such as `The Last Broadcast’ and `Lost Cities’, plus several memorable high-flying singles – including `There Goes The Fear’ and `Black And White Town’ – received critical plaudits en masse and, ultimately, fan adoration.
Kicking off in 1990 with the aforesaid SUB SUB (dance scene specialists from Manchester with a penchant for trippy vibes), former classmates Jimi Goodwin, Jez and twin Andy Williams saw an opening to go one step up from the hectic turbulence and soon-to-be dislocated Factory Records, a label that had produced 80s forerunners A CERTAIN RATIO, The STOCKHOLM MONSTERS, QUANDO QUANGO, HAPPY MONDAYS and many, many more.
Released on 10 Records (a subsidiary of Virgin), SUB SUB’s funky debut 12-inch, `Space Face’, hit the dance floors rather than the charts. And with Midas touch turntabilist TODD TERRY behind the dub version, all looked tickety-boo for the trio. The subsequent delay for a follow-up `Coast EP’ (released on Robs Records), probably set SUB SUB back a tad in their ambitions to succeed. However compensation came about in spring 1993 when, augmented by the cool and classy vocal chords of Melanie Williams, `Ain’t No Use (Ain’t No Love)’, rocketed to No.3 in the official UK charts.
Despite another Top 50 entry, `Respect’ (this time featuring Nina Henchion), SUB SUB were sinking faster than their rpm beats, and when `Angel’ submerged under a deluge of new Britpop sounds, it was time to turn the tide. On the surface, there was nothing much wrong with 1994’s bubbly FULL FATHOM FIVE {*5}, it was just out of sync with the ever-flowing times; SWING OUT SISTER and SHALAMAR were old hat.
Fate then took a hand in the trio’s decision to call it quits when a fire at the master-tape studios all but destroyed what would’ve been their sophomore set. Breakbeat affiliations with TRICKY and NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner (`Smoking Beagles’ and `This Time I’m Not Wrong’ respectively), were cast out to the proverbial bin… until a Portuguese label (Megamusica) and an Australian imprint (Cortex), cropped and pasted what they could muster for a belated 1998 drop.
A million miles from any dance floor orientations, the swaggering indie trip-pop DELTA TAPES {*6} was all too late for a band now fully-functioning as DOVES.
This fresh DOVES directive issued the 10-inch `Cedar EP’ for their Robs label-endorsed Casino label. Comprising three tracks, `The Cedar Room’, the wondrous `Rise’, and a rendition of JACK NITZSCHE’s `Zither’, the trio were now touted in some circles as one of Manchester’s best prospects. Sounding similar in some respects to OASIS and heavy-lidded rivals SHACK, singer/bassist Jimi Goodwin, guitarist Jez Williams and drummer Andy Williams (plus touring keyboardist Martin Rebelski), did their damndest to capture the essence and mad-for-it-ness that they’d experienced during the early 90s.
However, the music business still lacked interest and, although DOVES had augmented friend BADLY DRAWN BOY, the tired trio at this stage sounded as magnificent as RADIOHEAD without a transmitter. With two further singles under their belt: the 3-track `Sea’ EP and `Here It Comes’ (both 1999), Heavenly Records (Astralwerks in the US) furnished DOVES with a lucrative signing-on deal. A re-vamped `The Cedar Room’ and its parent debut album, LOST SOULS {*8}, both gleaned healthy chart positions in spring 2000, and encouraged further Top 40 sales for both `Catch The Sun’ and `The Man Who Told Everything’.
The ethereal DOVES were now darlings of Britain’s blissful indie scene, ranking alongside major newbies such as COLDPLAY, STARSAILOR and TRAVIS. However, come the release of their sophomore album, THE LAST BROADCAST (2002) {*9}, the bearded troupe of musing musicians had formally eclipsed any of the above in terms of musical and lyrical integrity. Taking its name from the 1998 “mockumentary”, which was said to have inspired The Blair Witch Project, the album generated emotional intensity from its dreamlike artwork to Goodwin’s gloom-and-doom vocals. The aforementioned Top 3 single, `There Goes The Fear’ (flipped with a cover of WARREN ZEVON’s `Hit The Ground Running’), utilised child-like guitar melodies and striking orchestral accompaniment courtesy of Sean O’Hagan (HIGH LLAMAS), not to mention a tripped-out video to boot. Where most bands had fallen flat on their faces come album number deux, DOVES and Top 30 coups such as `Pounding’ and `Caught By The River’ had simply evolved into something intrinsic and sublime – like a pristine dove walking amongst a flock of indie pigeons peppering the UK charts.
A Top 50 “Lost Sides” B-sides compendium in 2003 (containing “Wicker Man” nugget `Willow’s Song’), gave the trio time to contemplate as they continued to court their massive fanbase on the festival circuit. By early 2005, DOVES dropped another Top 10 smash, `Black And White Town’, an upbeat sunny-day song in the mould of BOO RADLEYS or DODGY. The big-ticket item supported the spirited SOME CITIES {*7}, an album that refined their emotionally acute take on potted Manc-sonic history. Although several critics saw through the record’s stylish veneer and celestial production values (at least on subsequent conquests `Snowden’ and `Sky Starts Falling’), there was variety and vigour in `One Of These Days’ and the opening title track.
Some four years down the line and recorded in their custom-built farmhouse studio in rural Cheshire, 2009’s KINGDOM OF DUST {*7} had DOVES experimenting with sweeping soundscapes and of course, their trademark reverb-ready harmonies. Time spent on perfecting the set’s widescreen ethos had possibly led to the set not quite reaching its zenith No.1 position, and with the changing tides within the singles charts (that now incorporated streaming), only the worthy title track cracked the Top 30; `Winter Hill’ flopped completely, whilst opener `Jetstream’ and `Birds Flew Backwards’ must’ve been penciled in for a radio spin.
The whole enchilada was wrapped up a year later with a near-Top 10 “Best Of” album, whilst a so-called hiatus/sabbatical/whatever proved indecisive as of late 2019. What did transpire was a Top 40 solo album by JIMI GOODWIN, entitled ODLUDEK (2014) {*6}, that pricked up a few ears for its ELBOW-like electro/brassy indie sound due to the fact that GUY GARVEY co-penned and contributed a handful of tracks (namely `Hope’, Panic Tree’ and `Man V Dingo’). Best of all was Jimi’s own `Live Like A River’, `The Ghost Of The Empties’ and Didsbury Girl’ (the latter authored alongside Simon Dine).
In the meantime, the Williams twins were plotting their own mini-comeback by way of an eponymous BLACK RIVERS (2015) {*7} album. Andy had upped sticks to Glasgow in 2012, so working with Jez again – who’d maintained his Mancunian links by staying put in Salford – was never going to be easy. The trouble was – as proved at a gig in Gulliver’s the previous July, attended by only 200 curious fans – was that the faceless siblings hadn’t projected themselves enough in the previous decade to warrant the same attention as their former frontman Jimi. And although reviews by Drowned In Sound and The Telegraph were encouraging, to say the least, poignant pieces such as `Diamond Days’, The Forest’ and the buoyant `The Ship’, went virtually unnoticed by anyone unaffiliated with the long-gone migrating DOVES.
© MC Strong/MCS 2002-2006/AS/GRD // rev-up MCS Aug2019

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