Ok. So I woke up this morning with a banging headache. Crawled on hands and knees to my fridge and sorted myself some own brand cornflakes. My ‘to-do’ list for today begins with this very review for a band I’ve never heard of before named ‘The Doppler Shift’. Now I love my physics, especially when it comes to the relative changes in sound-wave frequency, but I’m still wiping the gunk from my eyes when I press play on track one. No amount of previous knowledge on sound wave characteristics or Austrian Physicists (look it up!) could have prepared me for the next forty five minutes, eight tracks of… well… Maybe I should go into some detail.
The first thing you notice about the Doppler shift is the similarity to Devonshire trio (and world renowned gods of keyboard influenced rock genius) Muse. There’s absolutely no avoiding it. Most noticeably on the fifth track of the album brilliantly titled ‘The Man Who Was Forever Haunted by His Head’. I can only hope that The Doppler Shift are not haunted by comparisons to the work of Matt Bellamy and crew. Being comparable to Muse is no bad thing whatsoever.
My love/hate relationship with Muse began at a tender age listening to Origin of Symmetry and Absolution on long summer holiday car journeys, sitting in the back seat singing along in my pre-pubescent state to Bellamy’s falsetto (which I was quite proud to be able to imitate due to the height of my testicles at such a tender age). These two albums blew my mind. I’m sure I don’t have to go into much detail to explain why, if you don’t know what I’m on about, I can only assume you’ve never sat down and listened to them (I suggest you remedy this asap). However, with some slight embarrassment I confess I became really quite bored with Muses output after these two records. Of course there were still great tunes coming out (Black Holes), but nothing inspired like those moments on Absolution with the thumping orchestral parts and Bellamy’s awesome Rachmaninoff-ripping-off. Not to mention the tenderness in Origin on tracks such as Feeling Good and Screenager.
These are the moments, the feelings, the atmospheres and emotions that the Doppler Shift managed to reinstall in me this morning, a good 8 years since my last obsessive Muse session, while I gapingly shovel cornflakes into my face. I’m listening so intently now that I’ve actually missed a few mouthfuls and there’s milk dripping from my chin onto my laptop.
Of course I must point out now (for fear that somewhere, not too far away, this South Coast trio are reading this and getting more and more upset at my lack of an actual review) that there are clearly more influences at work amongst these lads than just Muse. There’s clearly a whole heap of Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Elbow and of course the god-daddies of this obscure experimental self-exploratory genre; Pink Floyd.
The album itself is titled ‘The Lost Art of Living’. A statement, I believe, on the monotony of modern life: Paying bills, drinking your coffee, going to work, coming home, watching something god-awful while the shining idiot-box in front of you slowly blurs out of consciousness, wake up, rinse, and repeat. It’s a sentiment that holds true in many art forms. One is reminded of Nirvana (another band whose name appears in the list of The Doppler Shifts major influences). And I am personally always reminded of Blurs second album ‘modern Life is Rubbish’, though this might just be due to the barefacedness of its title.
The opening track ‘Atrophy’ is a rousing opening number. Sweeping soundscapes break into a tasty 6/8 groove. The chord progressions leave us in anticipation. It doesn’t take long for the chorus to hit. A wailing, distorted cry of the words; “I crawl into myself” repeated ad emotion until it dies back into soft and spooky grooviness. It’s a spiritual for the jilted generation; the instinctual introversion of today’s society. This is mirrored in the fast switches between calm, gentle, moving parts and the desperation of the chorus.
The second ‘The Emotion Machine’ begins with the lyrics “I’m Tired”. It’s a thumping number, the drumming again reminding me of Dominic Howard. It’s another lost and alone track, sad yet redemptive.
Dynamics are clearly a big part of The Doppler Shift’s sound. ‘Path of Least Resistance’ is a brooding tune with some clever piano lines waving melodiously underneath a solid backbone beat. Contrasting to this ‘Held by Glass’ opens loud and crashing, again the piano carries the melody through the verse but it’s all about the thrashing guitars and powerful vocals that make this one of my favourites on the record.
‘The Man Who Was Forever Haunted by His Head’ is a track that’s worth mentioning again. Mid-record its gentle drumlessness is brought foreward by stunningly soft and beautiful vocals (that match Bellamy any day). Eventually the rest of the band is brought in along with sensual strings and the tune rises to a crescendo.
‘Legion of Decency’ is a funkier number, less soft and more urgent. Grinding synths this time are at the forefront. A bit more rock and roll this number. Chorus is slightly more formulaic than those on the rest of the album but it by no means makes it any less of a tune.
OK, so now I have a problem.
Talking about the musicality of these songs is simply not doing them justice. The final two tracks have moments of such beauty and harmonious song writing that my critical mind cannot help but turn off and just allow the sound to wash over me. This is a record for all who like ambiance, pounding desperate drums, groovy underlying verses with heartfelt dramatic choruses and lyrics that will stir your humanity. This is what I would have happily taken as Muse’s latest effort (I hear they’re experimenting with Dubstep and frankly, I don’t want to know). I know I’ve focused on this comparison quite heavily but the Doppler Shift are a brilliant band in their own right. They have their own message, their own hooks and their own sense of performance, even on record, which takes this album up yet another level. I look forward to seeing them live; I can only imagine it will blow my socks off as hard as my first listen to this record.
Best bowel of cornflakes I ever ate.