Doves - The Universal Want Music Album Reviews

Doves - The Universal Want Music Album Reviews
The Britrock survivors’ first album in 11 years is the sound of men in their 50s channeling the memories of their teens through the music of their 30s.

The transformative power of sound has served as the subtext for basically every song Doves have ever written. On “Cathedrals of the Mind,” it’s the entire text. The band’s Jimi Goodwin describes the third single from The Universal Want as “a prayer to sonics,” a recollection of ravers “going insane” in an open field as soundsystems blast at ego-crushing volumes. When the trio behind erstwhile dance project Sub Sub reinvented themselves as a vaguely mysterious and very grandiose Y2K Britrock band on their 2000 debut Lost Souls, there’s no way they would’ve allowed themselves to be so literal. That they can now is proof of concept for the band’s first album in 11 years: men in their 50s channeling the memories of their teens through the music of their 30s.
Merely by sounding much like other Doves albums, Universal Want is nostalgic. Though their first single was a booming, nearly eight-minute statement of intent, Doves’ debut made for a notable break from the Glastonbury giants then being felled by various forms of ego and bloat. And while Lost Souls and its follow-up The Last Broadcast topped the UK charts, the British press, “desperate for something to kick us out of the stupor of the previous two or three years,” quickly flocked towards the more tabloid-friendly Strokes and Libertines. For a time, Doves were at least perceived as being cooler or less crassly commercial than Coldplay—praise that eventually seemed shortsighted when comparing the technicolor splendor of the Brian Eno-produced Viva La Vida to 2009’s Kingdom of Rust.

As most of their peers have either shuttered or grown into the middle-age MOR tag, Doves seem to see their own continued existence as a form of defiance. “If you gotta believe in someone, don’t make that person me,” Goodwin sniffs on “Prisoners,” which seemingly advocates for rioting within the cell walls of your own life. It’s an unusually bristling sentiment, especially within the swirling, string-laced strums. Doves aren’t just picking up where they left off, but actively invoking their two earliest and most beloved albums. Both Lost Souls and Last Broadcast announced themselves with a portentous intro leading into a bracing, percussive mission statement; The Universal Want does the same. A cracking Tony Allen breakbeat serves as the selling point of “Carousels,” though Doves aren’t really riding the rhythm or working within a pocket. The sample dominates an already crowded mix, but maximalism is the point: “Carousels” works as a recreation of the competing nostalgias in Goodwin’s lyrics. It’s not meant to sound like the future, more, “they don’t make ’em like this anymore.”

The same could’ve been said in 2005 or 2009, when Some Cities and Kingdom of Rust arrived to increasingly muted receptions. Some of the critiques still hold true: As always, the midsection gets a bit soggy, one guitar overdub is never enough, and while Godwin’s vocals have an appealing, worn grain, they’re also incapable of modulation. But The Universal Want troubleshoots wisely—keep the tempos at a brisk jog, dabble in Afrobeat, Motown, and cinematic soul rather than prog, and watch the clock. Whereas Kingdom of Rust felt like twice its hourlong runtime, Universal Want is Doves’ first filler-free album, floating by like a warm breeze.

It also leaves about the same impression: In the moment, Doves’ candor and lyrical clarity on the title track are a welcome shift for a band whose personality is mostly divined from its production choices. Yet it’s the punched-in, drum-machine bounce of “I Will Not Hide” that lingers more than its hook; the mere attempt at making “Mother Silverlake” the grooviest Doves song is more memorable than the melody. The twinkling icicle lights of guitar that twist around the chorus of “Carousels” render its lyrics redundant at best. Despite their rep as throwback, album-oriented studio geeks, 2010’s The Places Between proved that Doves are a frequently transcendent singles band. The Universal Want lacks the take-on-the-world bullishness of “There Goes the Fear,” the cinematic sweep of “The Man Who Told Everything” or “Caught By the River,” or a chorus that could translate as easily to a jazz-pop cover as “Catch the Sun.” These are the kind of songs that might have driven Doves fans to the same ecstatic highs that Goodwin describes on “Cathedrals of the Mind,” but The Universal Want understands that those same people probably can’t experience that sensation anew, just fondly remember it.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Doves - The Universal Want Music Album Reviews Doves - The Universal Want Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, September 21, 2020 Rating:

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