I bought ‘The Cedar Room’ just as a relationship fizzled out. Not the most sensible seven minute solution to feeling shit, it must be said. But what a fucking song! I’d first heard it in 1998 when the original 10″ version was released and Adam Walton played it a lot on his short lived but absolutely essential Radio Wales weekday evening show. For some reason, I never chased down a copy at the time so, when I heard it was to be re-released ahead of Doves’ debut album, I was pretty chuffed.
We were both on the same sixth form trip and I, rather than skulking around the group attempting to look moody, opted to bugger off to Our Price instead of having lunch. I recall buying ‘Kill All Hippies’ at the same time – a glorious purchase on reflection – but it didn’t get played for days. ‘The Cedar Room’ went on a pretty much constant loop, just as its parent album would a few weeks later.
James, the unassuming muso who ran Dominion Records in Chepstow, had to order a copy of ‘Lost Souls’ in for me and it was due in on the Thursday after it was released. I can still remember dashing into town for it and then virtually jogging home, clutching the small carrier bag like it contained one of my vital organs. Despite all of this, it still managed to live up to expectations. With the possible exception of ‘Catch The Sun’, it is an album that creates a specific atmosphere, evokes a certain mood. All of the songs simply fit so well together. They’re not samey, just from the same place.
The album was a long time coming, appearing out of the traumatic end of the band’s previous incarnation as Sub Sub who were largely famous for ‘Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)’ the 1993 chart hit but who were also responsible for a curious dance/indie hybrid album, now as scarce as you’d imagine, entitled ‘The Delta Tapes’. This record featured Bernard Sumner and Tricky and compiled the various bits and bobs that might have formed their second album had the band’s relatively short lifespan not been brought to an abrupt halt by a fire which destroyed their studio in 1996. Sensing that the omens weren’t great, a rethink was on the cards and 1998 marked the first, tentative steps as Doves, though the scars of recent years remained on this debut album.
The creeping uncertainty of ‘Firesuite’ is fully explored in ‘The Cedar Room’, the fragmented melancholy of ‘Break Me Gently’ has plenty in common with the never entirely comfortable ‘Rise’. When you think that Doves’ initial three releases, all put out essentially by themselves were the aforementioned seven minute masterstroke, plus ‘Sea Song’ and one of my all-time favourite songs, ‘Here It Comes’, it seems hard to believe that the band didn’t become huge. Those three songs alone are enough to get this record into the top twenty of this list but ‘Lost Souls’ needs to be heard in its entirety to really hit you. It might not seem all that striking at first, but if you spend some time with it soundtracking your life, its remarkable powers never leave you.