Forget all the hype about the return of Oasis. While the brawling Gallagher brothers attempt to get back to their raw, rocking best on their forthcoming Heathen Chemistry album, the real cream of Manchester remains moody pop trio Doves. On the heels of the breakthrough success of their Lost Souls debut, the group's new The Last Broadcast disc is a massive step forward, jammed with the kinds of soaring choruses and orchestral pop gems that Noel Gallagher can now only dream about.
After spending four years recording Lost Souls, during which time their studio burned to the ground and their manager died, Doves knocked out The Last Broadcast in under 10 months, yet still managed to make the record sound like an epic. Orchestras, gospel choirs and trunks full of exotic percussion instruments help give a sense of grandeur to Brit-pop stormers like Words and Satellites.
For a group whose debut occasionally verged on goth, it's a very upbeat album.
"We were very keen not to make another Lost Souls, not because that was a bad record, but because it was just a start," drummer Andy Williams offers, munching on a bagel in his Los Angeles hotel room.
"We wanted something more positive, not as dark. We'd had a good few years after Lost Souls came out, so we wanted to capture that but also react against what we'd already done.
"It was amazing how easily it all came. Songs would just build and build, and then a lot of the time was spent stripping things down.
"It wasn't a smooth process. We're all very passionate and a bit like a brick wall when it comes to trading ideas back and forth. We can't be arsed to get into physical fights, but there were real blowouts about what direction certain things should go in. At the end of the day, though, we'd just compromise or, in the case of a song like There Goes The Fear, we would just cram the ideas together."
More than any other song on the album, There Goes The Fear signals this new openness in Doves' songwriting. A seven-minute monster that's somehow become a hit song in England, the tune is actually three tracks in one.
With a driving 4/4 house beat lurking beneath the surface and a storming batucada break at the end, the song also bridges the gap between Doves' massive pop sound and the club music all three members made in the past under the name Sub Sub.
"That was one of the first songs that we actually finished for The Last Broadcast," Williams concedes. "It really set the tone for the record. It took us five weeks to make all the parts fit together, and then someone had the bright idea of turning it into a samba song at the end.
"Doing something like that can be a disaster, but we're at the point now where trust is almost second nature. We've been working together for 12 years, and we can really understand each other."
With nearly a decade of underground experimenting under their belts before actually releasing anything as Doves, they're in the unusual position of hitting their stride 10 years in.
Where most groups would just be settling into an identity with their second album, the Manchester trio already feel comfortable enough with their vibe to keep branching out, to leave the studio altogether and record one song under a highway overpass.
"I think when we finished Lost Souls, that was the first time we were really happy with something we'd done," Williams agrees. The years before that were just trying to figure out what worked.
"We'd spent most of the time down in the studio trying to find our sound. Most people would have just given up, but we're unemployable."firstname.lastname@example.org
DOVES with ELBOW at Palais Royale (1601 Lakeshore West), Saturday (June 15). $22.50. 416-870-8000.