ALBUM REVIEW: Doves ‘The Universal Want’

Review and live images by Jonathan Taylor

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After an 11 year artistic break since the release of their last studio album ‘Kingdom of Rust’ we welcome back the re-emergence of the mighty DOVES and the release of their fifth album, ‘The Universal Want’ due for release on the 11th September.

The album opens with ‘Carousels’ which was the first glimpse of new material from the band. It is a nostalgic opener, reminiscent of days gone by, overflowing with unfathomable depths and bound together with a looping break beat. It’s ambient structures, trademark melodic guitar parts and grizzling synthesized sounds make for an exuberant beginning and deals a blow to any preconceptions.

‘I Will Not Hide’ begins as an acoustic driven offering and unfurls into a wonderfully upbeat arrangement. It is almost celebratory in sound, with a joyous sense of optimism bound together with reverberated samples and an uplifting lead guitar during the outro.

‘Broken Eyes’ is very much light and shade. On first impressions, in terms of its foundations, it is another uplifting arrangement. On further scrutiny, it is a tale of personal struggle and isn’t afraid of referencing the damage that can be caused by life’s unpredictable pathways. With lyrics such as, “When my angel appears, she is wasting her time”, it is a track that is very much open to interpretation and the very nature of its content is so relatable, which as a result some may draw comfort from.

‘For Tomorrow’ is a passionate tale of circumstance, self-reflection and contemplation that builds fantastically in sound to an unexpected middle eight that is packed with wall-to-wall sounds of sixties psychedelic soul.

‘Cathedrals of the Mind’ is one of the many stand out tracks on the album that is beautifully Balearic in sound and flavour where every element and detail is perfectly placed. The vocal from front man Jimi Goodwin is tender in delivery and its structure is wonderfully ethereal, and majestically uplifting.

‘Prisoners’ is a driving toe tapper. It explores the realms of dark and unexpected places and the yearning for the enlightenment that is always just over the horizon. It is a musical tightrope between tears and laughter, desolation and hope, and encapsulates the indefinable mood that Doves have long since mastered.

 ‘Cycle of Hurt’, is perhaps a direct response to the previous track. It is a buoyant, captivating tale about the need to break free from the confines of circumstance and finds the band once more concerned with finding freedom in a cynical, aspirational age.

‘Mother Silverlake’, a two-hander with Jez Williams and Jimi sharing the vocals, is an upbeat guitar driven offering. Celebratory in sound, it is fused together with piano, driving bass grooves and a lively percussive stroll in and out of Afrobeat inspiration.

‘Universal Want’ begins as a ballad on the piano, but soon morphs into something quite unpredictable and takes a remarkable hand brake turn just past the half way point. The piano-led stream of hymnal tranquillity breaks out into an unforeseen torrent of building guitars which transport you completely unexpectedly into a 90’s inspired electronic bass and percussion house work out. It is a triumphant arrangement tipping it’s hat to the Hacienda days of old and the bands beginnings in Sub Sub.

The album closes with ‘Forest House’ and is Doves back in seclusion. It is about being alone with a loved one, at one with nature and away from the gaze of scrutiny. It is a beautifully delicate arrangement and brings proceedings to a close perfectly.  

It is clear that Doves prolonged leave of absence has been beneficial for all parties concerned.  Jimi Goodwin, Andy Williams and Jez Williams have returned with an album that is joyous and uplifting, unexpected but familiar. Lyrically it is very much open to interpretation and as always it is beautifully northern in sound. There is an autobiographical subtext and musically it encapsulates perfectly three decades of experience and ideas. This time around, devoid of pressure and breaking free from the shackles of expectation, Doves have produced a masterpiece of a record, which arguably could be considered their finest album to date.