Music Reviews
The Universal Want

Doves The Universal Want

(Heavenly Recordings) Rating - 7/10

Having named their last album Kingdom of Rust, you might've excepted Doves to go on a decade-long hiatus on a dour note. But the Machester trio's fourth album proved that they had much more to prove had an even larger audience given them a chance. Anthemic, triumphant, and quasi-jazzy, Doves' songwriting elegance proved too sophisticated even when like-minded bands like Elbow were beginning their much-celebrated run by following a similar formula with The Seldom Seen Kid in 2009. Their stadium-rock posturing was too sincere to fill the empty back seats, not to mention that there wasn't anything too exciting to report about their personal lives.

That is why The Universal Want is a welcome reminder of what the band does best, and with post-Britpop not being the dominating force it once was, it allows them to get back to where they left off having to meet any expectations. After taking a break to pursue less strenuous side projects and enjoy family life, the trio quickly reacquainted and began writing new material as if those eight years had never happened. As expected from old friends catching up with lost time, the album evokes a sense of nostalgia both thematically and musically.

"I will not yield/I will not hide," lead vocalist Jimi Goodwin sings over rhythmic acoustic chug, light sample work, and unsyncopated drum patterns. Basically, it's all of the trio's earmarks rolled into one. And though it's emotionally nondescript, the track does emphasize how their stunning production choices continue to engage and impress. Even more of a throwback is For Tomorrow, a psych-rock odyssey about perseverance that finds a middle ground between Serge Gainsbourg sleaze and well, Kula Shaker's 1996 mega-hit Tattva. By all intents and purposes, it's the album's strongest and most adventurous track within a tracklist that has many highlights.

Sometimes, Doves' willingness to experiment leaves The Universal Want with a somewhat disjointed presentation. The dubstep-like percussion and spacey production of Catherdrals of the Mind is ripe for a bong rip, and besides having borderline incomprehensible lyrics, it just drags for too long. Prisoners and Mother Silverlake burst into majestic indie-rock and jazz-flecked funk, respectively, both reminds of how the band can make their songs soar with relatively simple arrangements. The former taps into their more melancholy side, as Goodwin describes a relationship gone sour with revealing poignancy.

It's no surprise that Doves can still write stirring standalone singles. But for a band that could be described as masters of mood (exhibit A: their miserablist breakthrough album The Last Broadcast), The Universal Want's strengths lie in a series of inspired moments rather than it coming together as a satisfying whole. In remaining faithful to their brand, there's no denying that old fans—and even those who may have forgotten about the trio—will have their expectations met and then some. At first, there's always the singular pleasure of reuniting–and the trio's musical creative spark continues to burn bright. Now that they've resettled and gotten into a groove, though, it'll be exciting to hear how their bond continues to grow.