Doves - Kingdom Of Rust. The First Review Of The New Album
, March 12th, 2009 08:35
John Doran travelled up to Doves' rehearsal rooms at the foot of the Peak District to listen to their new album. His verdict: easily the best yet.
Skittering post punk hi-hats run through the spine of the opening track to Doves' fourth album. Melancholy (a word you are perhaps expecting) and epic (yet another) strings then give way to a very techno (aha! Caught you out!) influenced, staccato bassline which in turn marshals the drums into very tight patterns. Laser-flashes of piano refrains and organ trills propel you through a stop-motion film of a city at night. It's unsurprising to learn that they’ve been listening to a lot of techno given Jimi Goodwin (bass, vocals), Andy Williams (drums) and Jez Williams (guitar)'s past in Hacienda house sorts Sub Sub. A stunning opener.
'Kingdom Of Rust'
Already abundantly familiar to the good listeners of Radios 1,2 and 6, no doubt. This is more recognizably Doves-y than most of the other tracks on an album that makes an asset of its eclecticism. This re-imagines US folk rock as something peculiarly English, and North Western English at that. Mancana rather than Americana perhaps.
A bracingly stern intro. And if the title refers to the band suffering from existential angst while recording this album, the first since Some Cities in 2005, then the music is suitably angst ridden and tempestuous. Jez and Jimi have coaxed a fearsomely fat and aqueous (almost fecal) guitar 'n' bass squelch out of their overdriven instruments. Of course the song could just be about getting locked out of The Barn, their new studio which is deep in the Cheshire countryside under the shadow of Jodrell Bank and the nearby Peak District.
Super producer John Leckie has a fearsome track record that includes The Verve’s Storm In Heaven, the Stone Roses' debut, Radiohead’s The Bends and This Nation’s Saving Grace by The Fall. He was drafted in to work on two of the songs here including this one: one of the best tracks, it summons up the mighty spirit of imperial Spiritualized during their acid house played on guitars, Electric Mainline phase.
Another effort with John Leckie, this has a plaintive and emotion saturated ballad that calls to mind the sumptuous pomp of Elbow. Perhaps there is a particularly epic, cagoule wearing ghost haunting the warehouse that Moolah Rouge, the studio the band practise in and where Guy Garvey’s troupe record, wandering down corridors with its head under its arm making sure that all the charges produce suitably windswept tunes. That would make it a Ca-ghoul, I guess. I’m here all week, etc. Then it transforms into a rocker than has big, super simian, destructive King Kong balls. Or possibly even big insectile furry Mothra balls.
'The Great Denier' This album is a lot more schizoid obviously because the band want it to be given that they demoed 40 songs this time instead of whittling it down from 14 or so. The inclusion of people like Dan Austen as co-producer obviously helps, given that he’s part of the Massive Attack team. This isn’t, it should be said a cover or an interpolation, of ‘The Great Pretender’ as en-fame-orized by the late great Freddie Mercury.
'Birds Flew Backwards'
This features, apparently, a delruba a close relative of the esraj, an Indian instrument that, in the broadest terms, is like a cross between a sitar and a cello. I was so awed by this information that I forgot to make any more notes about what the song sounded like but now would be a good point to say that this is almost certainly the best Doves album so far. Some bands don’t do ‘eclectic’ well but Jimi’s voice is so distinctive and the Doves’ aesthetic so strong that no matter what style they attempt it sounds like The Doves anyway.
This is not a cover of the excellent Siouxsie and the Banshees song (which always sounds better if you sing “eggbound” along to it). Instead this is the other song on the album which would sit comfortably on The Last Broadcast or Lost Souls. In its Doves-ishness, its Dovesiosity, its Dovesociousness it stil holds up a massive example to bands like Coldplay and U2. This is how stadium sized, atmospheric rock can still sound interesting and unifying without being over compressed or over produced.
DFA, ESG, LCD and other three letter acronyms spring to mind with this track’s dancefloor orientated punk funk/disco punk vibe. Mutant disco wins out over all the other influences here though and there are massive Arthur Russell echo chambers and squelchy Was Not Was bass work. Jez sings here and it has to be said that his register suits the sleek, lighter dancefloor vibe.
'House Of Mirrors'
This takes the last hurrah by the Rolling Stones, ‘Undercover Of The Night’ with a swampy blues rock vibe being pulled through a post punk process, as the jumping off point.
Doves are often (unfairly) lumped in with the lumpen, lachrymose and punchable likes of Snow Patrol and Coldplay and this is perhaps the closest in form and process to piano-led, IKEA furnished, mope rock but even here there is enough going on to render the comparison unfair even after only one listen.