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Photo by Deidre O'Callaghan"This guy sounds just like the mid-'90s," says my houseguest, the holder of a baccalaureate degree in music composition, when I play her a track by Doves. Though her characterization of Doves singer-bassist Jimi Goodwin isn't at first take a necessarily flattering one, it may well be true: it does often seem that these Manchester-bred, atmospheric rockers produce music that recalls a certain time and place—namely, when big guitar sounds and British twang ruled the world.
Before Doves got behind the requisite guitar, bass and drums, they were a proper Madchester house group called Sub Sub. Debut single "Aint No Love (Aint No Use)" was a success in the whirling, twirling party circles of the U.K., but that scene ultimately propelled the group into the rock strata instead, where they joined the sonic ranks of other brand-name Brit Rock acts of the day.
However, unlike Oasis and Radiohead, each Doves release has seen the band become increasingly rooted in its own sound. Instead of expanding outward to ballistically overblown proportions (The Brothers Gallagher) or scratching their beards during focus group sessions on audience alienation (The York of Thom), Goodwin and his twin-bro band mates Jez and Andy Williams dive into their own echoes and hums, consistently inhabiting the same basic soundscapes while exploring new musical corners and hiding places. If anything, Doves more closely resemble the psyched-out loopy rock & roll of the Stone Roses, or, if you will, a Led Zep cover band composed of moody teenage boys.
Now nearly a decade into their gig, the band have released a string of albums—edged toward a sort of efficient lyrical austerity usually missed by guitar-rock outfits—seduced audiences at festivals and on tour, and caught the ears of the Mercury Prize board. While still somehow cultural low-flyers, Doves remain seemingly grandiose and always ambitious. The result is a big-thinking experiment in layering dynamics that evokes a snowy, lovelorn sensibility but remains Modern British to the max. Nostalgic, sure, but only the kind that revives a love of rock & roll, instead of exhausting it.
DOVES PLAY WITH MARJORIE FAIR AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND DR., ANAHEIM, (714) 778-2583; WWW.HOB.COM. MON., 7 P.M. $35. ALL AGES.