Doves – The Last Broadcast (2002)

The Doves – The Last Broadcast (album)
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Whilst the dark, brooding and somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere of debut album Lost Souls (2000) can be heard throughout Doves’ second offering, The Last Broadcast undeniably bursts through with a confidence and energy sounding everything like a Mercury Prize nominated band should do. It is a sumptuous and triumphant album. The same sweeping and misty soundscapes are still evident (none more strongly so than on M62 Song) but the album’s focus is less skulking in shadows and more bursting proudly forth with pounding percussion and thick guitars interlaced with pearlescent xylophonic and vocal melodies. The Last Broadcast is, without doubt, the album of 00s British indie music at its highwater mark.

Of a time when instrumental intros were viewed positively (i.e.: pre-streaming), a minute of heavy pulsating synth opens the album before easing into Words with triumphant percussion overlain by a simple four-note, clean guitar melody. It’s a seriously strong declaration of the album and doesn’t need to shout: it oozes confidence and capability. The song’s message is somewhat more poignant today than at any other time in the past twenty years: words, they mean nothing, so you can’t hurt me. Over the verses, sung with an ethereal quality, the clean guitar goes on its own flight of fancy in the right channel whilst a distorted guitar plays rhythm in the left – mixing it up never sounded so indulgent.

Tracklisting can make or break an album and fortunately The Last Broadcast nails it every single time. There Goes The Fear continues the percussively-driven sound of Words but with the cleaner guitar taking a prominent place. It has a strong 60s vibes and has one of the best bridges on the album, coming in at just over 3:00 minutes with an instrumental breakdown before the bass picks up the melody, the hi-hats become stronger and the guitar adds a few effects for good measure. It’s capable stuff from a tight band. You can hear in the music it’s composed of a close group: two brothers and two childhood friends.

The pace is slowed down, right down, and the atmosphere harks back to debut album Lost Souls on tracks 04 and 05. M62 Song, homage through adaption to King Crimson’s 1969 Moonchild, is an ethereal peace conjuring up fog and drizzle and cold north-England nights whilst track 05, Where We’re Calling From, is full of celestial and soaring keyboards before flowing suddenly in the drum-pounding, distorted-guitar intro of N.Y.

If there’s anywhere in the album that lacks a certain thick and full sound it’s NY, Satellites and Friday’s Dust(06, 07 and 08 respectively). There’s nothing particularly wrong with them, they’re just album filler. Perhaps that’s been a little harsh: they show the adaptiveness of the band and, coming back to the tracklisting, gilt the paved road for the freight trains and wagons of album-stonker and indie-staple, track 09: Pounding. 

The second single from the album and reaching number 21, it’s become an anthemic theme of many nights out for many people. The dissonance of pounding percussion overlain by beautiful elongated vocals, it’s an end-of-the-night arms-round-eachother belter and by far the album’s stand out track and arguably Doves’ most well-known song.

Energy dwindles in a Sunday-hangover way for the closing three tracks with inner-searching title-track and sweeping strings Sulphur Man before closing with the perfectly track listed acoustic guitar-based Caught by the River.

Twenty years since its release and many of the songs the album plays host to can still be heard out and about, on adverts and in various media. Badly Drawn Boy won the Mercury Prize the same year The Last Broadcastwas released; in hindsight, Doves’ second offering has stood the critique of time much better. It’s easy to imagine somebody new to the music of the early 00s would pick this up and be able to connect just as easily as those of us listening when it was in fresh cellophane. I’ve no doubt in another 20 years, when 55, I will still be listening and still loving The Last Broadcast.

© Cromwell’s Codpiece 2023