THE DOVES at the Opera House (735 Queen East), tonight (Thursday, March 1), $12.50. 416-466-0313. Rating: NNNNN
Devastating misfortune hasn't stopped the Doves, not even death and destruction.When twin brothers Jez and Andy Williams, along with Manchester school chum Jimi Goodwin, scored a fluke chart smash in 93 with the disco stomper Ain't No Love (Ain't No Use) in their pre-Doves club incarnation as Sub Sub, the ensuing parties and bullshit left them creatively stagnant.
Then an electrical fire at their recording studio in 96 destroyed three years' worth of recording. Gone. Instead of giving up, Goodwin and the Williams brothers simply tossed their melted sampler and sequencer in the trash, picked up guitars and emerged from the ashes as the Doves.
"Looking back," considers guitarist Jez Williams during a break at a Manchester studio, "that fire was quite a good thing, really. It gave us a kick up the backside and forced us to make a choice about our future.
"That's when we decided to move away from a computer-based sound and try fusing elements of dance and rock, because we had backgrounds in both."
The dramatic turn from bouncy acid house to swirling, melancholic guitar pop made an immediate impact. The Doves' first recording, The Cedar Room EP, released on the Casino label run by New Order manager Rob Gretton, sold out its run before they could book a gig. When they did play out, members of Radiohead, the Chemical Brothers and the hype-happy British music press were waiting to heap effusive praise.
Then tragedy struck again as the influential Gretton, who helped orchestrate the Doves ascent, died of a heart attack in May 99 as they were readying their debut album. The deeply introspective Lost Souls (Heavenly) disc, dedicated to Gretton, was the antithesis of the grandiose stadium bluster of their Mancunian mates in Oasis, who ruled Britannia in the latter 90s.
While the record was critically lauded and shortlisted for a Mercury Prize, some considered the Doves' dark revelation depressing.
"We've been shown that card quite a few times, but, then, many people find Joy Division and the Smiths depressing, too, and I just don't see it at all," Williams says.
"If there's a darkness to our record, it's because that's how we felt while recording the thing. We were trapped in this bunker that was Joy Division's old studio every day for three years without seeing daylight.
"If you listen closely, a lot of the songs are about escaping -- that's what was on our minds the whole time. We won't be redoing Lost Souls for our next record. The plan is to be a bit more experimental, so the sound will definitely change. There won't be as much guitar -- we're more interested in finding subversive ways of using electronics."