Latitude 2009

Latitude: Doves and White Lies

Michael Bonner

I remarked yesterday of the rather neat symmetry that took me to Fever Ray and Bat For Lashes. Well, something similar has happened again this evening. This time, it’s White Lies and Doves, who followed each other at the Obelisk Arena and who both, in admittedly different ways, are exponents on a similar style of music.

This is what I’d broadly term big music. By which I mean, a particular Eighties rock sound – cascading drum patterns, sweeping synth sounds , chiming guitars, you know the drill. It’s the kind of thing bands like Echo & The Bunnymen did well, and to some degree The Chameleons, too.

White Lies’ singer Harry McVeigh appears to position himself in the lineage of earnest young frontmen. You might think of Ian Curtis, the Chameleons’ Mark Burgess, Editors’ Tom Smith, for instance. He stares fixedly out at the audience when he sings, barely moving apart from to stab at his guitar. “”I met a friend I once knew at a funeral,” he sings at the start of “From The Stars”. He, and the rest of the band, dress in black. It’s very sincere. I don’t particularly have a problem with this – just so’s it’s on the record – and it’s pretty apparent that the audience are lapping it up. But, as I leave the stage and pass the Comedy Tent, where Adam Hills is racing 20ft high, pink, plastic poodles across the head of the crowd, I can’t help wishing White Lies lightened their mood somewhat, and relaxed.

Doves, too, are part of this big music idea I’m kicking around. But, conspicuously, there’s a lot of difference between them and White Lies. Although they, too, deploy a similarly epic sweep in their songs, there’s something far more interesting bubbling away under the surface. As they race through “Jetstream”, “Winter Hill”, “Kingdom Of Rust” and “Two Of Us”, I’m struck at how broad and impressionistic their songs are. They don’t particularly subscribe to the notion of traditional songwriting. By which I mean, their songs are defined more by textures, than verse-chorus-verse-chorus-break-chorus. It’s perhaps understandable, considering the House music background of Jimi Goodwin and Andy and Jez Williams; a genre which privileges feeling and momentum over conventional pop constructs or dynamics.

As it goes, Doves deliver a wildly popular set, Jimi himself a particularly avuncular figure, dressed in a long sleeve grey shirt, who has a good line in between song banter. “It’s nice to see so many kids and babies here,” he deadpans. “It makes us feel like a hip and relevant band.”

They finish with a storming ”There Goes The Fear”, by far their best song, just as the final shades of colour leach from the sky.

Right, Spiritualized are on in about 10 minutes, so I need to get myself off to the UNCUT Arena for Jason. Allan’s just popped a can of beer open and is raring to go. Space rock, here we come.

Back later.


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