Doves – The Universal Want review

Doves never wanted to have a decade off, the trio – singer Jimi Goodwin, twin brothers Andy and Jez Williams – didn’t suffer a mutual blocked number fall out, or find themselves at odds over pursuing a new avenue in grime. Instead the time crept, meaning that initially what was just a break with the aim of reinvigorating themselves after the completion of 2009’s Kingdom of Rust became a yawning gap in their CV; weeks became months, months became years, years turned into a decade.

The Universal Want is that not very 2020 thing, a rock record created by three middle aged men with little to prove. But Doves were never the sort of band who collectively felt an us and them separation from their audience, to the extent the boldness of it lies in what’s not there; on their fifth album they tacitly update their rolling, deluxe indie sound without resorting to lop sided collaborations or fighting under banners which don’t suit them.

On opener Carousels you’d absolutely be forgiven for thinking it was business as usual. Written about childhood fairground excursions, it could stand shoulder to shoulder with anything from barnstorming earlier work The Last Broadcast, all reverb drenched guitars, soaring vocals and late night road trip energy.

Elsewhere there are both politics and a prescient take on how little actual control of our lives it seems we have; the title track zeroes in on our relentless desire to consume: initially circumspect, it builds to a towering indie-funk climax, whilst on Prisoners they nail – accidentally – the inward paranoia of self-isolation and lockdowns with “And last night I dreamt/I was sent to a place of innocence/Hello old friend/We can’t pretend we’re not prisoners of this life.”

If the ending is on a less profound note with the moribund Forest House, there’s still more than enough fire-in-belly to demonstrate that as comebacks go this is a wholly authentic one, Cycle of Hurt bombast free but absolutely arena ready, whilst the spectacularly named Cathedrals Of The Mind totes a pronounced dub inflection and For Tomorrow a spacy psychedelia. Career re-affirming bedrock? yes. But the unquestionable addition to their greatest hits roster is Broken Eyes, an anti-love song which bristles with regret and a chorus which sounds like both a shrug and an ultimatum.

Had they just been a hipper Elbow, Doves wouldn’t have probably had the residual loyalty of their patient fan base to call on – being absent for a decade from an industry that has the collective memory of a goldfish is a risk, but in their defence, one far from calculated. The Universal Want is a sometimes complicated record for a very complicated world. Whether it’s a single chapter from its creators or even if they’re ready to enter the war of everything full time again, it’s still been worth the wait. 

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