“An album that refuses to wallow in self-pity… Having gained their musical chops in the dance arena, they wisely apply those dynamics to their newfound idiom”: The prog heart of Doves’ Lost Souls

Doves - Lost Souls
(Image credit: Heavenly)

As many will attest, it’s after the hardest parties that the most crushing comedowns are experienced – and few bands have hit the ground quite as hard as Doves. Just seven years before the release of this, their debut album, they were known as Sub Sub. Peaking at No.3 in the UK Singles Chart and topping the UK Dance Singles Chart with guest singer Melanie Williams on the floor-filling banger Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use), it looked as if the fun would never stop.

Alas, disaster struck – not once, but twice. First, their recording studio was destroyed in a fire in early 1996. Thankfully insured and perhaps sensing which way the musical wind was blowing, the Mancunian trio of Jimi Goodwin (vocals/bass) and twins Jez (guitar/vocals) and Andy Williams (drums/vocals) changed direction and reincarnated as the guitar–driven Doves. Then, in 1999, their manager, Rob Gretton, died of a heart attack. Clearly, Lost Souls was going to be anything but a party album.

To listen to Doves’ debut again is to be re-acquainted with a record that focuses its attention on feelings of loss, loneliness and alienation. While their previous modus operandi was rooted in the unabashed hedonism that comes with youth, here the themes are viewed through mature eyes that feel the throb of the battered brain behind them. This is adulthood where the dreams of yesteryear give way to the harsh realities of the grown up world.

For all that, Lost Souls is an album that refuses to wallow in self-pity. Having gained their musical chops in the dance arena, Doves wisely apply those dynamics to their newfound idiom of rock music. 

Instrumental opener Firesuite – likely making a sly nod to the infernal disaster that befell them – sets the pace and agenda of what’s to follow. This is music that ebbs and flows much like the dance tunes they used to make, but applied to a mid–paced milieu that makes frequent excursions into the realms of progressive rock.

Witness the title track where the increasingly swelling music offers hope against the bleak lyrics (‘We’re all so lost...’) while the pumping Catch The Sun provides respite counter to the doubt that beats at its heart. Doves are implicitly offering hope even if their lyrics suggest otherwise. It’s a device best deployed on the epic The Cedar Room, a song that tugs at the heartstrings (‘I tried to sleep alone, but I couldn’t do it’) with an instrumentation that breaks free in the opposite direction. This, then, is an album unafraid to dive deep into dark emotions.

A House brings Lost Souls to a cautiously optimistic close. Looking back at the fire that originally brought them to this place, Doves are at once defiant but simultaneously finding the good in a world beset by challenges, problems and grief. Though it remains a conceptually heavy album, it’s never heavy–handed. Instead, the maturity needed to move forward is what comes to fore and the 12 songs spread across its grooves act as a guiding light against the gloom that encroaches on our lives.

Julian Marszalek

Julian Marszalek is the former Reviews Editor of The Blues Magazine. He has written about music for Music365, Yahoo! Music, The Quietus, The Guardian, NME and Shindig! among many others. As the Deputy Online News Editor at Xfm he revealed exclusively that Nick Cave’s second novel was on the way. During his two-decade career, he’s interviewed the likes of Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne, and has been ranted at by John Lydon. He’s also in the select group of music journalists to have actually got on with Lou Reed. Marszalek taught music journalism at Middlesex University and co-ran the genre-fluid Stow Festival in Walthamstow for six years.