PopMatters: On the Sixth Day God Created Man…chester
Doves and Elbow register in the 9-to-5 tradition of working class Manchester, where respect is earned through hard work, and character is assessed by true-to-self authenticity and true-to-others selflessness.
this is not your father’s prog rock, as the moody sound-scapes of Elbow and Doves are infiltrated by the pulses of modernity, too, ambient techno rhythms often providing the backdrops for the more traditional instrumentation, particularly in Doves’ works. Radiohead are the common denominator inspiration here, but the acid house beats that the Madchester scene imported from Detroit and Chicago are equally omnipresent, while Manchester’s northern soul tradition—rooted in the beats of Motown—can also be heard, if, perhaps, by way of the precedential forays of the Stone Roses. For all the broad-ranging influences and deep musical roots at the heart of Elbow and Doves, a notably Manchester sound still emanates from them in the final product. As the NME opined when reviewing Doves’ house-inspired debut album, Lost Souls (2000), “above all you hear a time and place” in the songs. (“Lost Souls” 31 March 2000)
Equally adept at capturing personal circumstances via topographical settings are Doves. Album titles like Some Cities (2005) and Kingdom of Rust (2009) establish their urban milieu, while nature-bound titles like “Winter Hill” and “Bird Flew Backwards” (both from Kingdom of Rust) suggest alternative desires to escape the city-scapes. Like Elbow, Doves use sounds and words as visual devices, as sparks for our imaginations to cross sensory lines. And as befits bands hailing from the city that provided the first passenger railway service, travel—particularly by trains—provides metaphors for themes of movement, unrest, escapism, and life journeys. Doves’ equivalent to Elbow’s “Station Approach” is “10.03″ (2009), a conventional riding-the-rails blues melody set against a techno-modern rhythmic backdrop, while an earlier song, “M62″ (2002), had the band surveying urban topography from the context of a North-West motorway; indeed, they even recorded the song under one of its overpasses.
Reflective of their techno roots, Doves experience Manchester in fast-forward mode, with a rhythmic momentum of and about movement, speed, and change. Some Cities recognize the transformations that cities like Manchester have gone through in recent decades, the progressions weighed against the inevitable loss of tradition, the commercial vibrancy against the erasure of character and distinction. “Home feels like a place I’ve never been,” reflects Jimi Goodwin on “House of Mirrors” (2009).