Doves – ‘The Universal Want’ review: a stunning return after more than a decade away

The Manchester trio, once thought lost to the big band retirement home in the sky, bring thumping fairground anthems, an ode to Bowie and words of hope

When Doves guitarist Jez Williams first told NME that their Warehouse Project performance in October 2010 would be their “last gig for a long, long, long time – if not indefinitely”, it looked like we’d witnessed the last broadcast from one of Manchester’s finest bands.

Read more: Doves on new single ‘Prisoner’, “self care” and long-awaited album ‘The Universal Want’

No clear reason was given for the lengthy hiatus other than the Manc trio “needed a break” and they were pursuing other “musical ventures”. The tragic circumstances surrounding the recording sessions of their last album ‘Kingdom Of Rust’ can’t have helped, though, with frontman Jimi Goodwin losing his father midway through.

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Murmurings later surfaced in 2014 that all was not lost when Goodwin confirmed the threesome hadn’t split, during promotion for his solo album ‘Odludek’. But it took another five years before Doves eventually came out of hiding following a triumphant comeback show at the Royal Albert Hall. And now, 11 years on Jimi, Jez and Andy have finally dropped their fifth album ‘The Universal Want’.

It’s a rare thing to find a record that flows from start to finish after such a lengthy break. Just ask The Stone Roses – even they struggled to rustle up two half-baked songs during their tumultuous third coming in 2016.

But then Doves have consistently crafted solid studio efforts over the years. And thumping fairground opener ‘Carousels’ marks a stunning return from the hinterland. Drenched in a lolloping drum loop cribbed from the late Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen, this jangly anthem finds Goodwin dragging his audience down the streets of his childhood as he bullishly affirms: “Oh, I’m gonna take you down / Back to the old fairgrounds / Oh yeah”.

‘Cathedrals Of The Mind’ – the band’s ode to Bowie – meanwhile echoes ‘Kingdom Of Rust’s sci-fi belter ‘Jetstream’, with its synth stabbing sonics and thudding beats. Elsewhere, the rousing ‘For Tomorrow’ feels like a song for Covid times, with Goodwin contemplating, “I spend my days wondering what’s happened to us?”, before he offers a beacon of hope with the promise: “For tomorrow we will breathe again / No more sorrow we will love again / I hope, I hope” over Verve-style guitar licks.

Title track ‘The Universal Want’ comes on like a haunting piano ballad, before bursting into a stomping house groove, harking back to producer A Guy Called Gerald’s 1988 Hacienda classic ‘Voodoo Ray’. While there’s nothing on here quite as fist pumping as Doves classics ‘Pounding’ or ‘There Goes The Fear’, the excellent ‘Prisoners’ and ‘Cycle Of Hurt’ come pretty close.

It may have taken over a decade for Doves to pour their souls into ‘The Universal Want’ but if it turns out to be their final transmission, it will be a worthy closing chapter to their epic legacy.

Details

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Release date: September 11

Record label: Virgin/EMI

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