Album Reviews: Some Cities by DovesAfter establishing themselves with a darkly beautiful but willfully obscure debut album, then overreaching with an arena-friendly but bombastic sophomore effort, the Manchester trio Doves seem to be settling into a comfortable middle period on their third effort, Some Cities. This is the sound of a well-established, critically acclaimed band who’ve shrugged off all the “saviors of rock” expectations laid on their shoulders and are content to crank out short, catchy pop-rock anthems.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Songs like the arresting lead single “Black and White Town” and the shimmering “One of These Days” are solidly crafted, workmanlike rockers, delivered with the kind of sweeping intensity that would put Coldplay to shame. Coming from any other band, they’d be standouts, but from Doves, a band that has always dealt in extremes, they sound almost half-formed, like they’re missing one more chiming Jez Williams guitar overdub or extra layer of post-production murk.
Still, there are plenty of standout moments to be had on Some Cities. Drummer Andy Williams establishes himself as the band’s resident master of stately, Beatlesque ballads, taking lead vocal duties on the haunting “The Storm,” featuring an eerily compressed Ryuichi Sakamoto orchestral sample, and “Shadows of Salford,” which employs an echoey, out of tune piano to similar effect. “Walk in Fire” and “Sky Starts Falling” will please fans of the band’s more strident Last Broadcast-era material, and “Someday Soon” highlights Jimi Goodwin’s increasingly relaxed, soulful vocals. Then there’s that great keyboard hook and bouncy backbeat on “Black and White Town,” which should give the band its biggest Stateside hit.
It’s fun to hear the guys in Doves just enjoying themselves and rocking out to a good set of riffs, especially when that set’s a big improvement over the vastly overrated Last Broadcast. But for my money they still haven’t topped the moody, textured masterpiece that was 2000’s Lost Souls. I’m sure, however, that the material on Lost Souls doesn’t sound as good in a big arena, and Doves have clearly decided to follow the arena rock path and not look back. Better them than Snow Patrol, I suppose. - Andy Hermann
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