The Doves - Kingdom Of Rust
Right from the release of Lost Souls, the Doves carved themselves a niche which set themselves apart from their contemporaries, while aiming for a commercial appreciation. On the one hand, they laid down some clever, downbeat songs, overlaid with shoegaze drones, subtle dance influences (so subtle you could barely detect them at times) and simple hooks. On the other, they delivered slices of catchy pop and clearly aimed themselves at the cleverer end of the market which lionised Coldplay.
The two subsequent albums, though they received critical acclaim, never quite took off in my view and certainly did not match the scale and beauty of Lost Souls. There was therefore an intriguing question as to what sort of mood we would find the Doves in upon the release of The Kingdom of Rust, their fourth album. Well, fans of the Doves should not be disappointed. The same elements which attracted one to them initially are still there, but there is a new energy and panache about their work this time round.
The stripped-down approach of Some Cities has been retained, as a basis, but the sound has been almost reconstructed from the bottom up. The Doves still retain their dance credentials. "Compulsion", for example, has an almost Giorgio Moroder-eque feel to it. Yet the Doves have also discovered rock. Right from the start, one can feel the band is a three piece. The rhythm section is more prominent, and the bass has a rawer feel to it. Some tracks, most notably "The Outsiders", have an almost pure rock feel to them. Yet even when the Doves are rocking, they never forget their dream pop strengths, as "The Greatest Denier", which combines these two halves, if you like, of the Doves clearly demonstrates.
It is not always a mix which fits, to be honest. While the Doves have produced an album of some depth, some of those depths are shallower than others. The songs differ between each other to such an extent that fishing for the prize catch to fit the moment is a hazardous business: one will get the nets of one's moods alternately caught on the rocks or be trawling deep in the chasms. If variety is what you are looking for, look no further. If stylistic consistency is what you want, you may struggle. The opening four tracks exemplify this predicament. "Jetstream" starts you off in a familiar place - where you last left the band. The title track follows with a sound which would not be out of place on a cheesy 1940's musical western, yet succeeds in spite of that. You get your sock rocked off with "The Outsiders" next and then comes the electrically pastoral feel of "Winter Hill", the album's best track.
Die-hard Doves fans will not be disappointed. But for someone like myself, who likes but does not love the Doves, the album still leaves me anticipating. I am still waiting for the Doves to produce an album of sublime brilliance: an album of tracks of the standard of "The Cedar Room" off their first album. I know they have it in them somewhere. It just hasn't emerged yet. I guess I will have to wait a little while longer.
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