Manchester band Doves release their fifth album The Universal Want on 11th September 2020. Made up of Jimi Goodwin (vocals/guitar), Jez Williams, (guitar/vocals) and brother Andy (drums/vocals) plus unofficial tour fourth member Martin Rebelski (multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist), this is their first collective album since 2009’s Kingdom of Rust.
It comes after an 11-year break for them. In the intervening years, Goodwin released a solo album and the Williams brothers released an album as Black Rivers. They got together again around 2017 and started laying the groundwork for this incarnation. This resulted in the 10 tracks being recorded between 2017 – 2019. After receiving a written invitation from Roger Daltrey (“we can’t say no to Roger Daltrey”), they performed in March 2019 at London’s Albert Hall for The Teenage Cancer Trust. Here, after a hugely favourable response from the audience, they recaptured their joy of live performance.
At first, track one, Carousel sounds like a regular Doves track. But then a drum loop takes centre stage, this being a sample taken from the late Afrobeat drummer, Tony Allen, who died in April this year. Goodwin’s voice is as haunting as ever as the song evokes childhood memories of carousels. At 1.27 minutes in it even has a touch of Richard Hawley about it. Indeed, the video demonstrates a sense of claustrophobia, recalling lockdown at times. (The album was finished just before lockdown.) A poignant piano adds to the layers.
I Will Not Hide starts with a Mickey Mouse (!) sounding vocal and a fluid and decisive tone. Then it delves into a magical sounding ode with the refrain “I will not yield, I will not hide.” An 80s synth sound and likeable beat underpins this. A female backing vocal and swirling, sonic guitar and drums back it all up seamlessly.
I love For Tomorrow. It’s full of 60s/70s soul vibes and uplifting lyrics “For tomorrow, we will live again….no more sorrow, you will love again,” the chorus will elevate your mood. Cathedrals Of The Mind, well, where do I start? It evokes a kaleidoscopic, inner world of expansiveness. If you watch the accompanying video it all ties together showing the depths of the mind including cogs whirring back and forth. This presents something of an aural masterpiece being trippy, electronic and ultimately poetic. (Jez Williams stated for him it’s about the loss of David Bowie), but make your own interpretation of it.
After Cathedrals Of The Mind Prisoners hits you right in the jugular. Jimi Goodwin’s vocals express desperation to a hurtling Northern soul beat. “We’re just prisoners of this life…. but we won’t be for long”, (which is suggestive of our current times). The lyrics are quintessential “English” bringing to mind edges of the Kinks. “In dusty halls and to the hollow shopping malls, to the endless rows of English roses…” The video (once again, needs to be seen), like the song, is hypnotic, psychedelic and pulls no punches, it reminds me of ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ (the film Bowie played the main character in). Powerful stuff.
For Mother Silverlake Jimi shares vocals with Jez on this funky, intoxicating dive. The thumping drum grooves combine well with elements of psychedelia and jazz. The title track, The Universal Want, starts as a gentle, but emotional piano ballad and then ups the tempo halfway through with shades of Primal Scream’s ‘Movin’ On Up’ building up to an unexpected crescendo then fading to a rave-laden/Madchester style ending, (bringing to mind a touch of their Sub Sub days.) Forest House starts with a gentle, acoustic guitar and childlike chimes. It has a fairytale feel with the lyrics “Walk past pines, to the forest house, through the forest gates” in Goodwin’s soothing tones. It has an ethereal, gentle quality to it.
It’s been well worth the long wait. Doves have returned refreshed and rejuvenated with a lot more up their collective sleeves. The Universal Want fires on all cylinders and does not disappoint. Music has the ability to express so many emotions at once, this does that and then some - The Northern souls are back.