The first thing to mention when discussing The Doppler Shift is that they sound like Muse. And it’s not that it’s a passing resemblance either. This is no ‘Oasis sound like The Beatles’ either; this is up Chemical Brother’s Let Forever Be sounds like The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows. They sound irrevocably, inescapably, undeniable similar. Cast half an ear to any song on ‘The Lost Art of Living’, the debut from the English four-piece and you could easily mistake them for Matt Bellamy and Co.
Don’t look on that as slight on The Doppler Shift or a stick to beat them with. They, in fact, do a great job of sounding just like Muse. They do a better job of sounding like Muse than Muse have done in the last few albums, their career mirroring Star Wars with their first three releases being great – the second one vying for one of the best of all time in some circles – before the latter three made you wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place.
‘The Lost Art of Living’ does a favour and just goes straight in, no kissing, to ‘Origin of Symmetry’-era Muse. Opener Atrophy is a pertinent example. It’s a five and a half-minute epic that never feels overlong. After a slow, contemplative start – with lead singer Joe Ross’ despairing lyrics (“As I perish inside everyone else seems to thrive”) underscored by Matt Chapman’s piano – the guitars, drums and vocals, now a distorted scream, kick down door as the chorus comes in. The Emotion Machine follows a similar path with “There’s no reason left to exist,” bringing the despair, with the other worldly synths driving the chorus.
These synths return again on Legion of Decency and Held by Glass – a song that sounds so like Muse that you’ll have to listen carefully to the vocals to determine that it’s not. In fact, it is with the vocals that the biggest difference shows itself. Ross doesn’t have Bellamy’s octave defying range and, while he occasionally reaches for the melodramatic, Ross is more than happy to play it understated too. The lament Wilderness – another example of The Doppler Shift’s anguished themes – sees Ross sounding closer to The Doves’ Jez Williams than anything else.
Closer The Lost Art of Living is highlight of the album. The verses – stripped back vocals accompanied by just acoustic guitar and an ever so light sprinkling of drums and piano – are juxtaposed perfectly with another of those barnstorming choruses. It also contains some of the finest lyrics of the album with the likes of “I’ve hit the bottom, but the bottom won’t hold me for long,” and “Trying to kill off your demons, you killed of your angels instead,” fitting perfectly with both the theme and the flow of the song.
But that is merely the peak in an album of high points. It is a remarkably assured and fully formed debut from the Englishmen where the depressing lyrics belie the overall feel of the album. Its grandiosity, its computer generated polish, its Muse-isms; they could be reasons to dislike this album, but they just fit so perfectly I can’t bring myself to.