Doves’ ‘The Universal Want’ review: their first album in 11 years is one of their best
When Doves released their fourth album, 2009’s Kingdom of Rust, the music world had shifted significantly from when they released their debut album just nine years earlier. The Manchester band’s majestic widescreen rock style felt maybe a little staid compared with what was going on in Brooklyn and other blog rock hubs. Doves went on hiatus in 2010 and their music seemed to disappear with them, despite The Last Broadcast and Some Cities being #1 albums in the UK and pretty big in North America too.
It was a jolt when Doves popped back up earlier this year with "Carousels." Not only that they had returned, but that it was so good. Powered by a sample of the late, great Tony Allen, “Carousels” has all the band’s earmarks: a soaring chorus, production that is both big but understated, and Jez Williams’ world-weary vocals. When the dancing guitar riff comes in two minutes in, "Carousels" becomes a classic. I am happy to report that there’s a lot more where that came from. Doves’ first album in 11 years is a real triumph.
Jimi Goodwin, Andy Williams, and Jez apparently began working on new material two years ago, just to see what might happen, which was well before their 2019 reunion gigs in the UK. “We didn’t tell anyone for a couple of years and just kept it our kind of secret, which was nice I suppose, “ Jez told CelebMix. “It meant that there was no pressure.” It’s clear they were happy with what they created and there is no going through the motions on The Universal Want. You can feel the passion and creative spark on all 10 tracks, and the band’s sound -- a warm mix of acoustic and electric guitars, a jazzy rhythm section, electronic flourishes and swaying, post-Radiohead Britpop melodies -- fits them even more comfortably now.
There is a naturalness to these songs and performances that you can’t really fake, feeling like it all just flowed out of them rather than being pieced together on a computer. The way the guitar lines, like on “Carousels” or the equally wonderful "I Will Not Hide," weave around the bass and drums is inspired, and they work as a perfect counterpoint to Jez’ melodies. Memorable songs abound: the breathless rush of "Prisoners" that has a little Scott Walker sweep mixed with a Motown groove; “Broken Eyes” has that offhanded anthemicism Doves have always done so well; and “Mother Silverlake” is ethereal, transportive and funky.
The Universal Want is the best kind of comeback album, one that is instantly recognizable as Doves but explores new territory, and reminds you why you liked them in the first place.
Plus: watch Doves new video for "Broken Eyes":