In 1995 a Manchester band called Sub Sub lost everything in a studio fire. The group had a club-friendly hit in "Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use)" and had teamed up with Tricky and New Order frontman Bernard Sumner to create the trippy tunes so popular on the Mancunian rave scene. But, never completely happy in their roles as techno-pop ambassadors, the boys of Sub Sub became even more disillusioned after the fire. The music became more complex, haunting and orchestral. The songs became mainstays on indie stations rather than hits on Radio One. Sub Sub became Doves.
The group garnered praise on both sides of the Atlantic with its 2002 LP The Last Broadcast, a haunting masterpiece. And just last month, London-based Heavenly Recordings released Lost Sides, a two-disc compilation of Doves B-sides and remixes.
Lost Sides can serve as a primer for those unfamiliar with Doves or as a well-culled retrospective for longtime fans. The first disc is a collection of B-sides and rarities; the second, remixes of songs from The Last Broadcast. The remixes don't shine quite as brightly as the B-sides, if only for the reason that the original Last Broadcast tracks are so damn good. Arranged by Stereolab veteran Andy Robinson and the High Llamas' Sean O' Hagan, the twelve tracks on The Last Broadcast are beautifully intricate, constructed with layer upon layer of strings, flute, guitar, saxophone -- even flugelhorn. The tracks on Lost Sides, overhauled by such talents as Magnet and Four Tet, sound lovely but ultimately feel superfluous. With the exception of Echoboy's stellar redux of "Words," the original tracks still stand as the best and truest interpretations of themselves. In other words: If it ain't broke, don't remix it.
The disc of B-sides and rarities, on the other hand, is singularly excellent. There are only three previously unreleased tracks here -- the dreamy "Down to Sea," the rocking instrumental interlude "Crunch" and the delightfully Sub Sub-like "Your Shadow Lay Across My Life" -- but even the more familiar B-sides get new life when played among other rarities. Bassist and versatile vocalist Jimi Goodwin can go from Jagger-esque playfulness on "Hit the Ground Running" to eerie, ethereal beauty on "Far From Grace." His vocal talent, backed by the drumming and guitar work of twin brothers Andy and Jez Williams, makes Doves one of the most interesting bands to come out of Manchester since Joy Division. But make no mistake: Goodwin and the Williams brothers aren't melancholy Ian Curtis-wannabes. Doves' songs are pensive, to be sure, but they're also lush, otherworldly -- and often downright joyous.