The music sounds unremarkable at first. Acoustic guitars saunter through. A British lilt whispers in spurts. Then, aiming sky-high, Jimi Goodwin lets loose with his church-choir wail and the Doves' etherealness builds to full realization.
Moments like these, which fill Doves' newest release, Some Cities, feel like "restrained rock." Call it tantric sex for the rock soul: the longer you build it up, the better it's going to turn out.
At the end of a Doves set, it's hard to label the band anything but remarkable.
The music is astonishing, sure, but unfortunately guitarist Jez Williams can't play the music from his hotel room. He and the band have been stuck in Dallas for four days, waiting out Hurricane Rita and canceling shows one by one.
"We just wish we were stuck in an f'ing better city," Williams says. "The heat is unbelievable, especially for the English. The Brits don't feel heat like that."
Doves are not alone. Fellow Englishmen Oasis played in Dallas the night before, and Coldplay is set to play the very next night. Oddly enough, it was Oasis and Coldplay that almost sealed the Doves' death knell. When the bandmates announced the end of their dance band Sub Sub and began Doves in the late '90s, U.K. music tabloid NME simultaneously announced the death of British rock music. The magazine named Oasis' musical self-indulgence and Coldplay's unexceptional sound as factors that would eventually bring down new Brits like Doves.
"Coldplay will never be the saviors of rock 'n' roll," claimed an NME writer. "None of these bands will. They will never cause front-page tabloid sensation and they really like their parents."
Doves may not be saviors, but they've indubitably saved their own little corner of rock music.
"We certainly haven't hit the mainstream, but Some Cities is doing well," says Williams. "I guess the way we've done it is just gigged. We've built up the live following. We're the band for word-of-mouth and, ya know, that's fine. We're a bit too left-field for [the mainstream] and that's all right with us."
The band-Goodwin, Williams and his twin brother, drummer Andy Williams-spent time feeling out their own boundaries since their critically acclaimed 2002 release, Last Broadcast. Williams insists they've grown up.
"Over the years we've learned to say no to things," he says. "It takes maturity. It's the ads and meet-and-greets for radio stations that don't play our music. Why should we do anything for them? We're a record company's nightmare."
They never refused a tough touring schedule, though. Another intense year left Goodwin with laryngitis this summer and forced the band to cancel a coveted slot at the Coachella Music Festival in April. The touring has been so rigorous, in fact, that Williams doesn't even remember the last time he was in the United States. (It was only four months ago.)
"It's been a long road since we started Some Cities," he says. "We've done a year [of touring] and we feel that's quite enough for this album. Since our first album, that's been the way we've done it-with touring-and that might be the avenue for other bands now, too, not radio. Unfortunately, it involves much more hard work."
Williams estimates that the band won't be back onstage for at least another year, maybe two. They've driven across our country at least eight times that he can remember and crossed the Atlantic six times for two albums. With that much asphalt-burning, they should know the roads better than most Americans, right?
"Not with our memory," Williams says. "And your pubs don't help."Doves play with Marjorie Fair at House of Blues on Oct. 11. $24.50-$27. 619-299-BLUE.