Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Heavenly
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
In interviews leading up to its release, erstwhile Doves frontman Jimi Goodwin likened his first solo album to a mix tape, something akin to the genre-hopping spirit of Beastie Boys’ big comeback album Check Your Head. The Mancunian musician doesn’t go that far, but he does manage to impress all the same. The 10 tracks here bound playfully through a variety of styles and melodic signatures, echoing the fevered influences of a serious music fan.
What’s in a name? Odludek is a Polish word meaning loner or pilgrim. Chosen as the title of Jimi Goodwin’s first solo excursion since fronting British band Doves, it seems to encompass the artist’s purpose. With the band on a lengthy hiatus, Goodwin has taken time out to conjure an album on which he plays almost all the instruments himself to mark a “this is me” line in the sand.
Maybe Jimi Goodwin got bored. Best known as frontman of post-Britpop outfit Doves, the Manchester veteran spent much of his career producing expansive guitar sounds that rarely deviated from type. So to hear his first solo outing, Odludek, strike such a distinctive fork in the road is surprising and refreshing—for him as much as us. .
It wasn’t a surprise when in 2010 Doves announced they were taking an indefinite break. After four albums and a good deal of commercial and critical success, it seemed like their cycle of widescreen, atmospheric/anthemic indie pop-rock had run its natural course. If Doves were an English U2, an accusation that was often levied against them, 2010’s Kingdom of Rust album was their Rattle & Hum, overblown, overly-familiar, and the victim of diminishing returns.
Jimi Goodwin is best known as one third of Doves. They’ve been on a break since 2010, shortly after which he began work on ‘Odludek’, his debut solo record. Naturally, with Goodwin being the band’s main songwriter and primary singer, there are similarities between this new record – the title of which means ‘loner’ or ‘pilgrim’ in Polish – and the band.
Odludek, the solo debut from Doves' Jimi Goodwin, makes up for what it lacks in consistency of tone with a pioneering spirit that both mocks and celebrates the digital age. Genres be damned, Goodwin is at his heart a world-weary Brit-pop songsmith in the vein of Elbow's Guy Garvey, and there is some of that to be found here, but for the most part, Odludek's ten largely disparate tracks play like somebody bumped into the shuffle button while the DJ was taking a smoke break. The one-two punch of opener "Terracotta Warrior" and its kissing cousin "Didsbury Girl," both expansive, semi-traditional, cerebral English alt-rock anthems, helps ease the listener into the proceedings, which take a significant left turn on the wily Kurt Weill-ian "Man v.
Critics of Goodwin's main band Doves – currently on indefinite hiatus – tend to portray the trio as comfortable indie plodders. His first solo album is a decent riposte: full of urgent, abrasive songs on which Goodwin sounds both creatively invigorated and thoroughly pissed off. Live Like a River seethes with heavily distorted guitars, Man v Dingo lurches recklessly between acid house, ska, jazz and junkyard cabaret.
The dictionary says that ‘Odludek’ is Polish for ‘recluse’. Which is odd given that Jimi Goodwin’s album of the same name seems much more like a series of false starts than a collection of cautious ponderings.In fairness, this is Goodwin’s first independent musical venture since Doves announced their extended break in 2009, so there’s little surprise that he wants to do something that stands apart. Before its release, Goodwin described ‘Odludek’ as a ‘mad mixtape’ which is ‘not trying to be wilfully eclectic’ but is instead ‘just a reflection of how I schizophrenically devour music’.
Solo albums are funny old beasts. Usually created by band members seeking to ‘explore a different musical path’ or work with a different set of musicians, they can’t help but be compared to the output that the artist initially made their name with. No matter how good or distinct they are, it's impossible not to ponder whether these are songs that have been turned down by the main band, or contain elements that are unpalatable to the other members.
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.
When the lead singer of a successful UK rock band goes it alone, there tend to be three outcomes, the thanks but no thanks (James Dean Bradfield), surprising troubadour action (Tim Burgess) or indulgent glitch (Thom Yorke). So what of Doves lead man Jimi Goodwin? Odludek does sound a bit like a Doves record (he’s the lead singer, after all). Because of their diverse approach in the studio and Goodwin’s promise of Odludek being like a really varied mixtape, the album has been talked up as a kind of ‘anything goes’ project.