Sunday, 21 May 2017
Oliver!: The Werefrogs - Forest of Doves (15 March 1992)
Nothing made The Frank and Walters sound so anodyne and pointless to me than hearing Peel follow their session version of Happy Busman with the title track of The Werefrogs' first EP. That was on the 1/3/92 show, but it wasn't available anywhere when I first heard it. Thankfully, another selection from this 15/3/92 show turned up on YouTube, and I asked the uploader very nicely for The Werefrogs, and here we are, to my everlasting gratitude, because this is a huge favourite of mine. 223 views on YouTube, and at least 3/4 of them have probably been made by me. It's high time Forest of Doves was better known.
The Werefrogs formed in New York but were one of those bands who, if not more popular in the UK than in their homeland, found that Blighty offered them the opportunity to record and distribute their music. Ultimate, home to groups like Senser and the 1992 Festive Fifty winners, Bang Bang Machine put out virtually all of The Werefrogs material starting with this superb, unashamedly romantic, psychedelic rocker.
The first thing that strikes you is the massiveness of the initial burst of sound after the preliminary drum pattern and bass prodding; once singer, Marc Wolf's guitar bursts forth, strap yourself in for an epic. The first 90 seconds seem to progress through the stages of seeds being planted which burst into mighty oaks and stretch up, up into the sky. On their own website the band called themselves "shoegaze/indie" but Forest of Doves is full rock monster; more Led Zeppelin than Curve, though a more contemporary, for the time, comparison might be with The Thing. Marc Wolf's vocals can't compete with the sound but does a better job of integrating with it than Sice Rowbotham. He sounds like someone trying to pick his way through the depths of the forest, looking to reach an oasis of sanctuary in the middle of it.
Lyrically, the song can be read several ways. On the one hand, it's a love song with Wolf bringing flowers to his lover. It could be a drug song, if the doves are taken to mean something other than birds. The laments over hollowness and haunted streets imply that the song is about a graveyard of memories, and that the forest represents a chance to escape mental torments of the past or the ennui of the present. I'm particularly entranced by the last minute of the song from 4:51 onwards where a gorgeous minor chord guitar line comes in to play the song out alongside the more monolithic guitar parts. It gives the song the feeling of a thousand doves taking to the skies from the tree branches of life, while the forest burns beneath them. A piece to listen as the sun rises and allow chaos to fall away from you. Staggeringly good.
This recording comes direct from the 15/3/92 BFBS show and Ivor Cutler's When I Stand on an Open Cart followed it. You may hear a snatch of the next track on the Forest of Doves EP, Spider Gardens Fizzle, before Ivor starts. I had to smile as the same quick start caught Peel out on 1/3/92 as well.
Video courtesy of John Peel.