'Doves' take flight

A British band reinvents itself after a fire destroys its studio.

At a time when most British bands seem to be wearing their Radiohead influences on their sleeves, it's refreshing to find that Doves, a three-piece band from Manchester, cite classical film composers like John Barry and Ennio Morricone as key influences. Their debut album, "Lost Souls" (Astralwerks), is rock music that's dramatic, and yes, cinematic.

"We think we've made a record that's a little bit more subversive than a straightforward rock album. Sonically, we've made sure that it has quite a lot of depth to it," says guitarist Jezz Williams before a recent Boston show.

Radio airplay and MTV2's hand-picked rotation of the band's first US single, "Catch the Sun," have been preceded by strong buzz in record stores and advance word of the band's success back home. Last year, "Lost Souls" was one of the albums nominated for the Mercury Music Prize - Britain's prestigious music equivalent of the literary Booker Award.

"Lost Souls" is elaborately crafted and textured with bass player Jimi Goodwin's sense of groove, splashes of psychedelia, muted electronic whooshes, whomping backbeats, glorious key changes, and choirlike harmonies.

Multilayered guitars shimmer, chime, and cascade like the folk and rock sounds of Neil Young grafted onto a sound vaguely reminiscent of The Verve and The Stone Roses.

"We only expected 'Lost Souls' to [ship] 15,000 copies, so its gone way beyond our expectations," says Andy Williams, twin brother to Jezz and the band's drummer.

It's a quiet victory for an unassuming, polite trio who are refreshingly free of the braggadocio bravura swaggered about by fellow Manchester bands like Oasis. Doves aren't the types to trumpet the successes and tragedies of their past, which could more than fill the "from riches-to-rags and back again" format of VH-1's "Behind the Music" documentaries.

Doves didn't start out as a rock band at all. Their first incarnation as dance-music group Sub Sub scored a No. 3 hit in Britain with "Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)" in 1993. Despite working with New Order vocalist Bernard Summer, Sub Sub found itself musically hemmed in by public expectations of more disco follow-ups. Then came the sudden death of its manager, Robert Gretton. And a devastating fire.

Explains Jezz Williams, "Our studio used to be in the very rundown cotton mills in Manchester. It had holes everywhere in the walls, and water got through and hit the electrics. The whole studio went up in flames, so we lost everything." The musicians arrived at the studios to discover a fireman strumming an acoustic guitar salvaged from the wreckage.

"We were faced with a decision whether to give up or to carry on," he continues. The band relaunched itself as a rock group under the moniker of Doves. Fittingly, "Lost Souls" opens with an incendiary instrumental called "Firesuite," which also begins their live shows.

"It's a dream come true for a band, 'innit'? To come over to the States from England," says Jezz Williams of their first tour here. Still, the band remains sagely cautious about their prospects of success in the US.

"We see ourselves, hopefully a year down the line, back in America doing a bigger tour and building from grass roots up," Andy Williams says.

Watch these Doves fly.

Listen to sound clips of Doves at the csmonitor.com version of this article.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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