After releasing their fourth album in 2009, Doves disappeared.
Mainstays of the mid-noughties indie scene, the three-piece went on a hiatus that spanned almost nine years as members of the band explored other projects. However, a triumphant run of comeback gigs in 2019 were followed by the release of Doves’ fifth album, The Universal Want.
Stunningly versatile, it serves as a reminder that the Manchester trio deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the city’s other esteemed exports.
Opening anthem ‘Carousels’ offers a rousing introduction, aided by a drum sample from the late Tony Allen. Frontman Jimi Goodwin wanders through childhood memories of fairgrounds, in a track that epitomises Doves’ penchant for unconventional progressions and experimentation.
Goodwin hailed the album as a demonstration of the band’s love of “sonic weirdness, atmosphere and energy”, and when combined with Doves’ vintage distorted guitar, a winning formula is found.
It is 20 years since Doves last performed as electronic act Sub Sub, yet in 2020, there are subtle nods to their dance past. ‘Mother Silverlake’ delivers punches of funk and distortion, whilst there is a spacey intro and outro on the mesmerising ‘Cathedrals of the Mind’.
The aforementioned track is a perfect example of the LP’s greatest asset. It is a haunting and emotive exploration of having someone on your mind, and guitarist Jez Williams perceived the track as being about the loss of David Bowie. As poignant and thought-provoking as the track is, the lyrics are delivered in unison with a psychedelic sound and subtle hints of jazz and dance. It is the contrast of haunted lyrics and light-hearted melodies that help to mould the record into the transfixing adventure that it is.
Despite the willingness to experiment, the album is still crafted in such a way that it remains quintessentially Doves. Distorted guitar and the stoic, sonorous voice of Goodwin make sure of that.
The album’s consistency does not prevent a track from standing out. ‘Prisoners’ addresses the complexities of the mind as soaring backing vocals wash over the soulful croon of Goodwin. The lyrics are hauntingly apt, as they ponder temporary imprisonment despite being written prior to the chaos of Covid-19.
It is uncertain as to whether The Universal Want is Doves’ swansong, but it is clear that the veterans have not lost their touch.
(Image Credit: Renegade Music)