Revisit is a series of reviews highlighting past releases that now deserve a second look.
B-sides are called so because they are just that: the second rate, the unsung, the mediocre. You listen to them only after the a-sides. You listen to them cursorily on the way to work, or whenever you have spare time that doesn’t require unadulterated attention.
Occasionally, these often inferior works are lumped together into half-baked compilation albums destined for only the hands of die-hards. That’s why Doves deserve more credit for producing a quality b-side album that surpasses most a-side work, including some of their own.
Lost Sides is the aptly titled addendum to Doves’ debut album, Lost Souls, a jewel for fans of mellow chill-out music and dreamy British rock ‘n’ roll. Why Doves didn’t bother just releasing a two-disc set from the get-go is beyond me. Though Souls‘ quality remains unsurpassed by most of its U.K. competition, Sides perfectly matches the heavenly, introverted ambiance of its down-tempo companion. Not surprising considering they were conceived during the same recording sessions. The foundation of warm, organic tones catapults each song into elevated regions of song conception. The nylon-guitar-driven “Northenden” is a perfect example. Singer Jimi Goodwin’s voice is mixed in a slightly distant proximity to the guitars and the background strings. Rather than blatantly douse each instrument in cheap reverb effects, producers/mixers Max Heyes and Steve Osbourne fine-tune the EQ of each track to create interesting three-dimensional layers.
The most surprising thing about Sides is the number of accessible, radio-friendly songs it harbors. “Your Shadow Lay Across My Life,” “Valley,” “Far From Grace” and the Fatboy Slim-ish “Hit the Ground Running” match anything gracing the BBC around the turn of the century, when Doves transformed from dance club trio Sub Sub to the compelling rock artists they are today. The album’s masterpiece is most certainly the wintry, appropriately titled “Darker,” a combination of alienated melodies, an uncharacteristically distorted bass, and a thick groove; it’s a lost British gem that would easily appeal to a wide spectrum of pop and rock fans, and deserves much more than b-side.
Sure, there’s a decent chunk of incidental music on this record – the only instance Sides proves itself as a compilation. A third of the tracks seem to be written for an nonexistent film soundtrack. While this slightly nontraditional facet may turn off some listeners, Sides‘ charm lies within this very aspect. Doves best convey their songwriting versatility here, and it’s a shame they’ve completely forgone this approach with recent albums in order to cater to the demands of formulaic pop. These instrumentals surpass many vocal-driven works. The jazzy, psychedelic lounge in “Meet Me at the Pier” may be repetitive, but its euphonic aura renders this unnoticed. It allows one to revel in the moment. “Zither” is a sarcastic fairytale for the ears, a quirky little ditty that’s perhaps Doves’ best instrumental to date. It makes one wonder what kind of film soundtrack Doves could produce if given the opportunity.
With a flow as distinct as any other album, Sides comes off as anything but a mere collection of extra recorded tracks. It’s a creative effort on its own, a second window looking into what Goodwin and the Williams brothers are capable of. Apparently a lot, guys. Please don’t forget it.
by Jory Spadea