When Doves Drone
It’s up and down and all around. Odludek is an interesting album. It has highs and lows– sadly, more of the latter, but it remains an ambitious piece of work. Odludek marks the first solo effort of Doves frontman Jimi Goodwin and comes in with a welter of influences, styles and aspirations. It does some proud, and falls short on others.
At the very least, it starts strong. “Terracotta Warriors” begins with a tolling crash, followed up by Goodwin’s meandering vocals. And then it just… smooths out. And not in a good way. There’s an unfortunate tendency on Odludek to kick off hard and then coast, placing the onus of keeping a song fresh firmly on Goodwin’s vocals. And by and large, they just don’t quite cut it.
Push past the intros, and you’ll find that nearly every song flattens into boilerplate alt-rock drawling. Imagine every low voiced couldn’t-give-a-shit singer that showed up in the late ’90s. Goodwin never really rises beyond that stereotypical drone. He’s good at it, but not good enough to make it sound anything but recycled. Lyrics that waver between heartfelt and trite don’t help, especially since they usually fall on the trite side. Lines like “If you could open up my skull that day / You’d find a supermarket’s worth of useless junk” off of “Ghost of the Empties” are ear-catching, but never quite manage to line up in an insightful (or intelligible) pattern.
These tendencies get particularly frustrating when they come hard on the heels of an initially promising song. “Live Like a River” has an interesting, stripped-down electronica feel to it; “Keep my Soul in Song” opens with a taste of gospel; “Man vs. Dingo” sounds like ragtime Daft Punk for the first few seconds. All of them quickly ramp down into the same swamp. “Man vs. Dingo” in particular squanders a good start and quickly bogs down for the rest of the song.
Still, there are some highlights. “Oh! Whiskey” is an easy standout. Country-colored influences and a bluesy chorus make for a very listenable, relaxed piece of music. We may have maligned the clunky lyrics of “Ghost of the Empties” before, but they don’t completely obscure the song, which starts like a Bruce Hornsby piece and survives thanks to some nicely-selected vocal effects.
Is it enough to justify a listen? Your call– most will be happiest just snagging the most promising singles and leaving the rest to quietly fade away.