Life Goes Past: Doves’ ‘The Last Broadcast’ At 20

Toasting two decades of their wonderful album...

Doves have constantly been an imperious presence in British music since their 2000 debut album 'Lost Souls', which earned strong reviews and proved them a force to be reckoned with; following a lengthy hiatus the group returned to acclaim with 2020’s 'The Universal Want'. 'Lost Souls' was the culmination of four years of recording and saw them emerge alongside a wave of post-Britpop bands, often earning comparisons to fellow Mancunians elbow with dark yet uplifting songs, often with an anthemic quality to them.

'Lost Souls' peaked at Number 16 on the charts, earned the group a Mercury nomination and saw three of its singles hitting the Top 40.

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Even with a body of work that has earnt glowing reviews for the most part, the album that often sticks out as the groups finest is 2002’s 'The Last Broadcast' which turns 20 later this month. The record had a lot to live up to coming off the strong showing of the debut both commercially and critically. The signs of the hype surrounding the album were clear from the offset with it going straight to number one, the first of two records to do so. 'There Goes The Fear', one of the group’s signature tunes became their highest charting single peaking at No. 3 with 'Pounding' and 'Caught By The River' also reaching the top 30.

Guitarist Jez Williams remarked later that the group were surrounded by a big burst of energy which ultimately translated into their song-writing. The band moved from the Manchester studio they had recorded Lost Souls in, recording at Parr Street Studios Liverpool and Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath among others as they looked to broaden and hone their sound. The record sold 52,000 records in its first week underlining Doves popularity within a crowded space at that moment in time.

While some of the groups that have emerged in the early 2000s have since faded into obscurity or irrelevance, Doves have constantly remained at the vanguard of the scene and this record is a prime part of that. 'There Goes The Fear' and 'Pounding' are surely never far from an indie disco playlist and encapsulate both the darkness and upbeat nature of much of the group's work. The opening chords of 'There Goes The Fear' are instantly recognisable and at close to seven minutes it remains a core, epic part of the group’s live sets. 'Pounding' – while shorter – is one of the group's heavier tracks with its opening drumbeat kicking the rollicking song into gear.

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The album encapsulates the electronic influences that have been underlying across the groups work and are apparent on opening track 'Words' which kicks things off to gear in fine fashion. 'The Last Broadcast' is perhaps the most complete record the group have made to date which is not to throw shade at their fine output of work since. This record allows each members musicality to shine through from the disntinctive guitar tones of Williams which mark them out from other artists, the dark and witty lyricism and Jimi Goodwin’s basslines and distinctive vocals. This record shows all the mechanisms that have made Doves a standout group, working harmoniously to achieve a unique rich and layered sound full of textures and nuance.

20 years on from its release, The Last Broadcast has lost none of its power, remaining a vital cornerstone of the UK indie landscape full of vibrancy and a balance between brooding undertones and sing along rock. 'There Goes The Fear' might be the standout and most commercial track but this album is far more than that one single and is filled with quality across the board and without a filler track in sight. For those wanting an intro to Doves this might well prove the perfect starting point as a melting pot of the numerous elements that make the group such a dynamic and distinctive one.  

The record built on the platform laid by 'Lost Souls' and elevated the group above many of their contemporaries. We can only hope that this record and the group more broadly continue to stand the test of time and earn new fans as it is often hard to believe that this record is 20 years old with an almost timeless quality to many of its tracks, 'The Universal Want' shows that even after a lengthy gap there is life to Doves yet – let's hope they continue to deliver music of this quality and scale for years to come.

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