The Universal Want
After 11 years in stasis, Manchester trio Doves are back with their fifth album, ‘The Universal Want’, and it’s like they’ve never been away. It’s probably best not to reflect too much on the past decade or so, as a lot has occurred since Jimi Goodwin (bass/vocals) and brothers Jez (guitar) and Andy (drums) Williams released music under the Doves moniker.
Having found themselves noodling with material left over from 2009’s ‘Kingdom of Rust’ LP, the three piece found ideas organically flowed and before they knew it, the premise of another solo record (Goodwin) or a new Black Rivers album (the Williams brothers other outfit) went out the window. As Goodwin states in a recent interview with NME “I just know that we’ve made a really good Doves record that represents where we are and where we’ve been for the past 11 years”. You’re not wrong there Jimi! ‘The Universal Want’ gestures back to the outfit’s broad, yet intimate sound, that’s rooted in atmospheric rock and dance music, but it’s unmistakably fresh; it’s not so much that it feels like Doves have never been away, they’ve evolved, and they’re reinvigorated.
The notion of time is something the trio are aware of with ‘The Universal Want’, as Jez mentions in an interview with Rolling Stone “It’s definitely got the stamp of ‘the time’ all over it. Everything on the album is an echo. It’s an echo of what we were going through at the time”. Like some kind of sonic sonar, Doves’ post-hiatus record picks up radar blips from their previous work, but it also chronicles time, it’s march and the here and now. The title reference has a duality to it; a constant desire for progression, a lust that can be productive and destructive, anchored by the ’want’ and the ‘universal’ element that carries are more liberal thread throughout the LP’s 10 tracks, with themes that pivot on self-care and relationships.
With a low-key ethereal glow, ‘Carousels’ announces the first tones of ‘The Universal Want’, as if to gently coax the listener back into the band’s inner-sanctum. What awaits you is a rich mixture of taut hip-hop drumbeats and expansive sonic landscapes forged from intricate guitar motifs and a subtle hum. This is low-key anthemics delivered with astute poise. Mixed in with Goodwin’s smooth, yet coarse vocals, it’s like being greeted with a big hug from someone you’ve not seen in forever. Whilst sonically ‘The Universal Want’ makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, there are moments when the record takes you on an emotional, melancholic ride. ‘Broken Eyes’ lonesome twang has Goodwin musing “you only ever shed a tear through broken eyes”. ‘Cycle of Hurt’ ruminates on toxic behaviour; while the opening riff is joyous and the track conveys a heavenly stature, a vocal sample tells a different story “hello/I need to stop this cycle of hurt/it’s a trap/a circle in dirt/it seems to be a repeating loop of hurt”. An ever changing myriad of sounds buoys ‘For Tomorrow’, as complex drum licks and textured sounds coalesce and morph through dub, psychedelia and a squalling outro, the band’s frontman can be heard recounting a relationship that’s broken down “just try and talk to me/are we really from different worlds?”. Lead single ‘Prisoners’ provides a driving urgency at the record’s core, as bass and drums form the track’s propulsive engine. Goodwin’s lyrics can be interpreted on a societal level or something more intimate when he purrs “we’re just prisoners of this time” or “if you’ve gotta believe in someone/don’t believe in me/if you’ve gotta let go of someone/make that person me”. It’s all capped off by another scorching solo by Jez, of which you’ll find several scattered throughout ‘The Universal Want’. The notion of progression, be it a personal drive for more or something that could be construed as blind consumerism is explored on the LP’s title track; starting off stripped back, just a piano and vocals before evolving into something flecked with Balearic tones, Goodwin can be heard pondering “the universal want is everywhere/is everyone”. ‘I Will Not Hide’ provides a defiant edge to the record with Goodwin’s clenched fist delivery of “if this is a test to see who blinks before the other/I will not yield/I will not hide/I will not hide anymore” while textured noises swirl and contort.
While we wouldn’t have wanted to have waited so long for a new Doves album, ‘The Universal Want’ is most definitely worth it. Just don’t leave it another 11 years before the next one fellas.
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