When I first heard that the new Doves album, Kingdom Of Rust, hearkened more toward their first album, Lost Souls (2000), than their most recent, Some Cities, even though that album is now four years old and strains the definition of “recent,” I worried a bit. I liked Lost Souls, but was very impressed by the directness of Some Cities, both in the songwriting and in the band’s seemingly newfound restraint in the fields of reverb and feedback. The latter seemed to find new ground for the group, versus the by-now-rote Radiohead-meets-shoegazing sound. Four years is a long time to retreat.
It is with great relief, then, that I say that not only is Kingdom Of Rust its own creature, but that the band has found a comfortable common ground between both their phases. The opener, “Jetstream,” finds the band adopting an electro-chug and guitarist/vocalist Andy Williams slipping into a vocal sound easily mistaken for Tears for Fears’ Curt Smith. It’s a shocking start, but a good one because it absolutely indicates you’re not getting old wolves in new sheepskin. The title cut has a country ramble feel that builds into the guitar and string majesty we’ve come to expect from Doves, yet the framing device gives it all a freshness, and a killer melody is hook enough for repeated listening. This all leads to track three, “The Outsiders,” which deceptively begins with Pink Floydian psychedelic washes, segues into a Coldplay-like rocker, only to jump into a nicely head-thrashing chorus.
The 3/4 shuffle of “Spellbound,” while at complete odds with the track that follows it (“Compulsion” sounding like a mutant of Human League brit-funk, Adrian Belew-era Talking Heads and those barely restrained atmospherics) really catches up all this album is in a neat five and a half minutes. Jimi Goodwin’s vocals drive the song right up front, the rhythm suggests decades of pop ancestry and, all the while, the waves of sound that in the past swallowed the band whole is at complete service to the tune.
Some Cities made me rethink Doves, and became one of the most compulsively enjoyed CDs of 2005 for me. With its variety and willingness to try almost everything, while not abandoning the core of their sound, Kingdom of Rust continues that trend and may very well surpass it.
Kingdom of Rust is available through Amazon.com.