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Doves - 'The Universal Want' Album Review


1. Carousels

2. I Will Not Hide

3. Broken Eyes

4. Tomorrow

5. Cathedrals Of The Mind

6. Prisoners

7. Cycle Of Hurt

8. Mother Silverlake

9. Universal Want

10. Forest House

After a 10 year hiatus, Doves are back with their new album, `The Universal Want’. In the intervening period Jimi Goodwin released his first solo album and Jez and Andy Williams formed Black Rivers and released a self titled album. Fans of Doves raised a petition in 2018, but it looks as if the trio were already planning their return. They have returned with a sumptuous soundscape and their release of 'Cathedrals Of The Mind', 'Prisoners' and 'Carousels' was a good taster for the forthcoming album.

The album opens with ‘Carousels’, which starts with an ethereal intro and spoken word but builds into an up tempo masterpiece. As openers go, this is pretty damn good. Andy William’s drumming is hypnotic, Jez William’s guitar powers through and Jimi Goodwin proves that his vocals are as good as they have ever been. With acoustic strings starting the second track, ‘I Will Not Hide’ builds into an uplifting show of defiance typified by the line If this is a test to see who blinks before the other, I will not yield, I will not hide, I will not hide anymore’. It closes with lush guitar work full of reverb. A lone guitar opens ‘Broken Eyes’ and this track really makes you sit up and listen. Whilst the musical arrangement is upbeat the lyrics are about the cracks in life’s rich tapestry. This is Doves at their melancholy best, with a repeating lyric of ‘When my angel appears, she is wasting her time’. The contemplative theme continues with ‘For Tomorrow’ which has a Prog style soundscape behind Jimi Goodwin’s warm vocals.

‘Cathedrals Of The Mind’ sounds like a grandiose Prog title and the track has more than a passing nod to prog with cascading synths. The swirling, reverbing arrangement and samples give this a dreamlike quality that you can float away with. The complex layering is contrasted with the gentle tender vocals. One of the stand out tracks for me is ‘Prisoners’. The lyrics about being ‘prisoners of this life’, this track seems to be a reflection on the reason why Doves took a ten year hiatus. They explain to the listener about ‘Blood on the stage’ and ‘Dusty halls’ and to the ‘Hollow shopping malls’. ‘Cycle Of Hurt’ follows on from the previous track. It is a psychedelic arrangement, with Brian Jonestown Massacre style twangy guitar. It has an uplifting vibe, until the outro when the ominous line ‘It’s a trick, it’s a trap’ repeats.

‘Mother Silverlake’ features both Jez Williams and Jimi Goodwin on vocals. The production is rich on this track and again it has mash up of genres. The percussion is jaunty and trots throughout. The penultimate and title track slowly builds from simple piano and stunning vocal full of sadness and longing. The song is full of questioning, and halfway through it launches into a cacophony of sound. The piano is ever present but is now being driven with guitar and percussion. This would be great as an extended live track, letting Jez and Andy Williams cut loose. Towards the end there is a nod to the Hacienda days. ‘Forest House’ concludes the album with a four count in. Given the rich sound of the rest of the album, this is a tender simple song. It is about the tranquillity that can be found in simplicity. It is a perfect and uplifting way to end the album.

More times than not, when a band come back from a ten year hiatus, they come back a shadow of their former selves. Not so the Mancunian masters of melancholy, who have come back stronger than ever. Whether that is due to having the freedom to explore other avenues, I do not know, but 'The Universal Want' to me seems a cathartic journey about the life experiences throughout those ten years. The lyrics are personal and auto biographic. The album is expertly produced and a sonic feast. Doves seem to have put everything into this release, and I think it is even better than 'The Last Broadcast'. I do not know how they make the melancholy uplifting, but they do. 'The Universal Want' should be universally wanted because it is their best album to date. I just hope they don’t stay away for so long this time.

The Universal Want is released on Friday 11th September.

Review - Tony Creek

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