Updated: Oct 7, 2020
Manchester Indie giants Doves have returned after 11 years with the melancholic and nostalgic The Universal Want. Comeback albums aren't supposed to be this good, right?
Doves completely escaped me first time around. Despite being an obsessed fan of guitar bands in the 2000s, their music simply did nothing for me. They were a decade older than all the other bands coming through and, well - shallow as it seems - looked out of trend and sounded dreary.
Then, in 2009, one late June afternoon flicking between BBC's Glastonbury Festival coverage, I stumbled across a performance of 'The Cedar Room' (from 2000 debut Lost Souls). Everything changed. 7 minutes 38 seconds of beautiful epicness started an obsession with the song over that summer, soon delving into their back catalogue to see what I'd been missing out on all these years.
Soon after, watching the magnificent 2009 Indie Rom-Com 500 Days of Summer, the deceptively haunting 'There Goes The Fear' made a welcomed appearance in the soundtrack, it's uplifting and yet melancholic sound immediately striking a chord. It was time for a rethink, prompted me to seek out their new album (2009's Kingdom of Rust), songs like 'The Outsiders' and 'Kingdom of Rust' quickly becoming big favourites.
And 2009 would, in fact, be the last time the band would release new music for quite some time. With the trio now approaching their forties, four critically acclaimed albums down (and a compilation to come in 2010), their impending hiatus was hardly a surprise.
The band went their separate ways, lead singer Jimi Goodwin going onto release a solo album and brother bandmates Jez and Andy Williams releasing music as Black Rivers. Their reason for their time apart was a rather vague 'we need a break', suggesting they'd had enough of the album-tour-album cycle. Had last broadcast already occurred?
The return of Doves
In 2018, the band surprised the music world by announcing a series of gigs in 2019, before then posting on Facebook that a new album was in the making.
Excitement ensued. The return of Doves may not have been on the top of most people's lists, but who could deny that they were one of best British Indie Rock bands of the last 20 years.
11 years is a lifetime to be out the industry and fans of the band nervously awaited their next step, with good reason too. Not every comeback is a glowing success (The Libertines mixed 2015 album Anthems for the Doomed Youth and the two disappointing 2016 singles by The Stone Roses quickly come to mind).
In June, Dove dropped the fairground inspired 'Carousels', surpassing everyone's expectations by some distance. Jangly and nostalgic, it sneaked in and blew everyone away. Wow. Who saw that coming?
It's a beautifully crafted, psychedelic song featuring a soulful groove and looped drums over their traditional melancholia Indie sound. Simply outstanding. I loved it so much I placed it third in my Indie songs of summer 2020. Out the game a decade but hadn't lost their touch.
Speaking about the track to NME, Jimi Goodman said:
''Carousels' is a really exciting track to come back with; especially now as it's a shot through with a lot of hope. It calls back to going to the fair when you're a kid, dodging all the psychos and getting waltzer money taken off you.'
The Universal Want
The rest of the album doesn't disappoint either, a mesmerising listen from start to finish, constantly blown away time and again.
Now, you'd perhaps expect a band gone for 11 years to over-egg the pudding on their comeback but Doves resist this temptation. It's not exactly a collection of 3-minute Indie-Pop songs, but 10 songs at just over 47 minutes in length ensures they never outstay their welcome.
'I Will Not Hide' immediately follows 'Carousels', one of the many upbeat highlights on the album, a simply sublime psychedelic Folk-Rock track. There's even some auto-tuned vocals near the end (who saw that coming 11 years ago?) before Jimi then declares 'I will not yield, I will not hide'. A beautifully feedbacked guitar solo immediately follows. Just stunning.
The highlight on the album is arguably the penultimate track 'The Universal Want', a haunting piano ballad which later breaks down into a House beat, harking back to their early-90s Dance trio days as Sub Sub.
As someone who only got into the band later in their career, it still amazes me that Doves have this history to them. Listening to 1993's 'Ain't No Love', there's absolutely nothing to suggest that less than a decade later they'd be performing melancholic Indie Rock songs and worrying their lives were 'passing them by'!
'Prisoners' is the second single from the album, released back in July. In the chorus, Jimi sings 'Hello old friend / It’s been a while / It's me again / We're just prisoners of these times / But it won’t be for long', it almost feels like he's trying to reassure the Doves fanbase that, despite all that's going on in the world, everything's going to be alright. In fact, it's a song about self-help and defeating your demons, mental health being a constant theme on the record (see 'Cycle of Hurt' for similar).
'Mother Silverlake' is perhaps the funkiest on the record, an Afrobeat groove ensuring it's one of the most interesting on The Universal Want. It may not be the most diverse album, but they can definitely mix it up when they want to, usually to great success.
'Broken Eyes' is the third single from the album, a song they've been sitting on for many years before coming across it again on a hard-drive, reworking it to fit on the new album (it was originally called 'Cocaine Eyes'). It's another solid radio-friendly Indie-Rock single, dealing with addiction and repetitive behaviour.
'The kings of catchy melancholia are back after a decade away – and their tried and tested blueprint has lost none of its magic'. Alex Petridis, The Guardian (Thursday 10 September 2020)
Now in their 50s, The Doves probably never expected the wave of positivity The Universal Want is now receiving. Writing in The Guardian, music journalist Alex Petridis made the record his 'album of the week' declaring it to be a 'soaring soundtrack to changing lives'.
Doves guitarist Jez Williams admitted to NME that the gap between albums wouldn't be so long next time, 'I definitely feel like there’s a lot more music in us...whether we’d sit down to write an album, I don’t know.'
With minds blown time and again over the 47 minutes, let's hope they don't leave us hanging another 11 years for the next episode.