Saturday, November 28, 2009

#33. 'So why is it so hard to get by?'

Doves "Pounding"

It's the drum beat. Simple as that. You wanna know why "Pounding" outranks all but 32 singles released between 2000 and 2009? It's the drum beat. Why did I initially rank The Last Broadcast as a contender for my favorite albums of the decade? At least 50% of it was the drum beat. Why am I currently lying here with a look of determination on my face despite doing nothing more important than a blog post? The fucking drum beat, that's why. OK, I'm overstating it a bit, but seriously, the insistent battering ram of a drum pattern that Doves' drummer Andy Williams lays down here is one of the most energizing beats of the decade. So simple and primal yet so utterly perfectly suited to every single activity that requires motivation or energy. When it first came out I remember using it to power through the last bits of homework or exam prep I had in grade 12 - Jesus Christ, 7 years ago already... - and every so often to this day if I ever need a quick injection of energy it's right there waiting to give me that push. An it hasn't become any less effective for all the times I've used it to do so either, which says a lot about how insistent the damn thing is.

But honestly, it's not just the beat. That's the most important of the elements fore sure but if there wasn't a great tune outside of that I doubt it would have been among the first things to come to mind in the early stages of this process. Ignoring the drums - OK, impossible to do but bear with me here - the other elements would make a damned good song in their own right. Jimi Goodwin's pleading vocal, his brother's excellent pair of guitar breaks, the equally insistent rhythm guitar throughout the song matching Williams' drumming at ever turn...the drums may be the deserved focal point here but that's not a slight on the other elements by any stretch. It all comes together as the last great britpop single, more anthemic and driving than anything its bigger bands could come up with at their peak let alone in 2002 when most people were trying to play the genre off as a thing of the past.

I realize that using the b-word here could be seen as a bit disparaging to some, but think about it: The Doves are basically the band so many wanted The Stone Roses to be - effortlessly anthemic, emotional and poppy without the air of smugness that Ian Brown brings to the proceedings. It's hard to see it as anything but a direct descendant of that whole scene, no matter the connotations, and even so it's miles better than any non-Pulp-produced britpop single ever. It strikes just the right balance between the rousing and the tender - Goodwin's vocals are surprisingly keening without veering into melodrama, and perfectly suited to the song, especially as he rises during the chorus. Seriously, the song would be worth it if only for that first sweeping 'weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee're so down' even if the rest of the vocals and lyrics were 90% tripe. Thankfully they aren't, the song's a basic 'seize the day' thing but so effective in it's ministrations that all you want to do is get out there and live free of consequences for a four minute stretch. Sure, that's still mostly down to the drums but without some of Goodwin's words and vocals the song would be a bit of an empty shell.

Then there's the other Goodwin brother, Jez. He only gets a couple of moments to shine here but he makes more of them than you might expect. Firstly, that rapid chord break after the second chorus where he finally emerges from the back of the mix. It's not a traditional solo, but it certainly feels as monumental as any of the more technically proficient ones out there. The tone of his guitar is just perfect or that section, crunchy without being obviously distorted, sharp and glassy but full bodied. It's not too long of a section but it never fails to send a chill down my spine. Then before the last chorus he breaks through again with that lovely fluid arpeggio - it's been there the whole time but so low in the mix that it's more subconscious than anything. Once again, the tone is beautiful and it gives the end of the song a suitably epic feel despite not changing the sound all that much. His work is arguably just as important as Williams' as far as making the most of the song but the subtlety of it catches me off guard at times, which just makes me appreciate it a lot more.

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