Ah, the state of British rock today. After the explosion a couple years back of more overt bands like Oasis and the Verve, there's been sort of a gradual tailing off of things. Sure, Blur has kept things going pretty well and changed up their styles from "Girls And Boys" to "Song #2" and Radiohead manages to pleasantly surprise just about everyone with each subsequent release while groups like Travis have worked themselves into the spotlight somewhat, but things just aren't quite as big as they were a couple years back.
As always, some of the best stuff is by the groups who are doing something different and while the Doves aren't really doing anything completely new, they've combined a few different styles together and have indeed managed to come up with an album that actually sounds fresh. While Primal Scream ground things up a bit with XTRMNTR, the Doves have taken a bit more of the softer sonic side of electronic music and fused that with dreamy pop-rock for a nice hybrid that will have you singing along at times and at others simply blissing out. While this is the Doves debut album in name, the three fellows collaborating on the album (Jez and Andy Williams and Jimi Goodwin) have been together almost 10 years, previously as the more dancefloor oriented Sub Sub. After a fire consumed all the master tapes and work on what was to be second album, the three took an about swing and decided to go more of a traditional band route, which resulted in their current incarnation.
The group doesn't really hold back much on the debut, as it runs 15 tracks (3 of them are extra on the US domestic release) and well over 70 minutes. The disc starts out with the instrumental "Firesuite" (perhaps a reference to their own reincarnation) on which the steady trio of drums, bass and guitar slowly build a sly groove worthy of Portishead over some wispy samples. From there, they go into a more standard sounding track in "Here It Comes," before the quiet "Break Me Gently" (in which the vocals have been filtered so that it sounds like they're being sung underwater).
The shoegazer side of the band comes into play on the very next track and it's fittingly titled "Sea Song" as it undulates back and forth before building to a shimmering haze a couple different times. On the back to back tracks of "Melody Calls" and "Catch The Sun," the group works a soft singalong and more overtly rocking side respectively. They're two of the more less-exciting tracks on the album and even though they take a more traditional route, they don't derail the more interesting sound of the group. One of the best tracks on the album is actually one of the first ones that the group ever did, and was pulled from an earlier EP. "The Cedar Room" starts out with a slow, stuttering wash of feedback before locking into a super smooth rhythm. Shimmering guitars just melt over the song and the vocals are nicely subdued until the louder choruses. It's the longest track on the release, but doesn't feel overlong one bit.
The actual album closes out on the somewhat eerie track "A House," but as the first bonus track kicks in, it will make you wonder why in the hell they left it off any copies of the release at all. "Darker" is by far the loudest track on the disc with its thick, sludgy bass, but the guitar part dances across the fuzzed out groove and snappy, almost hip-hop beats. It's seducto and smooth and one of the better rock tracks I've heard this year. The other two bonus tracks take a bit different route, but by the time they arrive, they're just icing. There are elements of everything from Morrissey (even with the cover art) to a touch of shoegazer and flat-out rock, but there's just something slightly different about Lost Souls that gives it it's edge. Not absolutely groundbreaking, but very good.