Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Doves - Kingdom of Rust (EMI 2009)

Remember Doves? They wrote modern anthemic indie Northern soul that married rock and dance in sublime ways that were miles away from baggy and full of heart. From ‘Black’n’White Town’s claustrophobia-destroying foot stomps to ‘There Goes The Fear’s triumphant guitar riffs, they have been canny enough to produce music with feeling and intelligence and accessibility, something certainly not to be sneered at. Sometimes they've never been able to match the pace of their knockout singles for an entire album, but this time with 'Kingdom of Rust' they're playing for keeps, sounding focused and consistent. We all know their story (well, if you don’t) from Sub Sub to studio tragedy to workhorse underdogs to now. They’ve cheekily been covering Sub Sub tunes live for a minute now, so it’s nice to hear both influences married together on new album opener ‘Jetstream’ with its dancey reverbed synths ricocheting over guitar-peggios and a housey beat that always threatens to erupt into anthemic status, but sensibly holds back all the way through. Title track ‘Kingdom of Rust’ ploughs that familiar Doves sound, melancholy and triumph, optimism in the midst of pain and tragedy, the suffocation of small towns, the disintegration of society yet striving to find a way out. As ‘blackbirds flew into cooling towers’ Jimi is packing his bags, waiting for you, trying to escape the kingdom of rust over lilting guitars and brooding strings, with an oompa-oompa country-esque bounce. Electronics skitter in the outer frequencies, and the hope shines through the depression and sadness. This is Doves at their strongest, beating the odds, pulling together, fighting dirt with grit.

‘The Outsiders’ is back in that fierce edgy Sub Sub field, all delayed bleeps, uptempo drums and urgent surging guitars. ‘Winter Hill’ seems to replicate Spiritualized’s droned-blissed-scuzzed ‘Electric Mainline’ riff and turn it into something sombre and bittersweet, Jimi pleading plaintively in the centre of its repeated hypnotic rhythms eventually distorted into a stomping Northern Soul banger. ‘Compulsion’ is the other new departure for Doves, with its languid funk and ease of rolling basses, passionate and funky, with a new lease of life for the band, strangely, in party mood. ‘The Greatest Denier’ kicks out, the anthem for the underdog, so completely at ease with itself and beating the odds despite Doves’ finding themselves not being a Mancunian band people remember. Which is a shame, because their superlative songwriting rivals that of one Stephen Morrissey, certainly beats certain Gallaghers for invention, emotion and lack of pretension, and is funkier, groovier, fist-thumpinger and more urgent and better than any other contemporary Manchester band. They are more than a Manchester band. They are a band for the underdog. A band that beats off the sorrow and regret in their lives with fist-thumping, heart-warming, uplifting beautiful music juxtaposing the clash between natural beauty and heavy industry. This is dreamy and panoramic and melancholic yet so utterly beautiful and uplifting.


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