It’s entirely predictable that Jimi Goodwin’s first solo album will be compared to his work with Doves, even though that’s not necessarily the most appropriate way of analysing it. After all, Goodwin is only one third of Doves and if he wanted to make something that sounded like a Doves album then presumably he would have recorded it with that band, currently on hiatus since 2010.
So it’s fairer to come at Odludek bearing in mind that it will sound different to anything Goodwin has been involved in before – we should expect an evolution. Let us not forget that Doves only became Doves because their previous incarnation, Sub Sub, was killed off when the band’s studio burned down in 1996. A radical change can work very well indeed.
Looking back through Goodwin’s oeuvre, we might draw a rough trajectory from urban to pastoral. Sub Sub were connected with the Hacienda rave scene, and while Doves weren’t urban in a dance music way, their material always felt very connected to the city. Think of M62 Song, from their album The Last Broadcast, which felt a bit metropolitan psychogeographical, like Iain Sinclair writing about the M25.
Here though, there are far more guitars than synths, and some of those guitars jangle and slide – there are moments when a transition into Americana looks to be on the cards. And by the last track, Goodwin is singing about a fucking tree: yes, the song has a wry tone and the tree is a metaphor, but it’s a tree nonetheless, and it doesn’t get much more pastoral than that.
Even so, it’s not difficult to place this album somewhere close to Manchester, and not just because a song called Didsbury Girl pops up earlier on. At times, it sounds like a slightly heavier Elbow – who Goodwin will be supporting on tour this Spring – and it shares a magpie-like tendency with Doves’ old friend Badly Drawn Boy. The aforementioned Didsbury Girl lies somewhere in between psychedelic haze, baroque Britpop, and something close to full-on shredding. But that patchwork of styles that Badly Drawn Boy occasionally pulled off so well is a difficult thing to get totally right. Goodwin does manage to keep the album sounding coherent, but there are some jarring elements, such as the electronic forays of Live Like A River, which, if one was being unkind, one might describe as sounding like Oasis attempting to cover Friendly Fires.
Man v Dingo, meanwhile, is simultaneously the best and worst track here. It starts off with some truly dreadful gameshow theme tune effects (is Man v Dingo perhaps meant to be some horrible reality TV show?), but then gets into its stride when some meaty jazz horns are introduced. It briefly goes a bit wrong again when a didgeridoo makes an appearance (even when a song’s title includes an Australian animal, you don’t need a didgeridoo), but somehow recovers.
There are a couple of total misfires, such as Keep My Soul In Song, a moment of sub-par pub philosophy in which Goodwin appears to wish he was Guy Garvey. But that track is followed by Oh! Whiskey, a moment of pub philosophy that he makes entirely his own. Midway through, the pace changes to a piano-led trot that’s reminiscent of Ian Dury, but it still works. The song ends with Goodwin singing “Have you had too much? I think you’ve had enough?” and this call for moderation serves to excuse any potentially risky quirks.
Odludek is a mixed bag, then. But it’s to Goodwin’s credit that the bravery he shows in trying to pull so much into one album is more often than not worthwhile. Indeed, if he hadn’t mixed Mancunian pub wisdom with a hint of slide guitar and touch of the cod-Australian, then this would probably be a much duller record.