Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: Doves - Kingdom of Rust (* * * *)

It's been four solid years since Doves dropped their last album, Some Cities, on the world. One could argue that a four-year absence doesn't qualify their new record, Kingdom of Rust, as a comeback album, but for whatever reason, it FEELS like a comeback album. Fortunately, the trio of Jez Williams, Jimi Goodwin, and And Williams seem determined to make the most of this opportunity, returning in a big way with another confident display of songwriting and musicianship wrapped in their signature alt-rock sound that's even bigger and more brash this time around.

Admittedly, this album had to overcome the initial bad impression I had with the first single and lead track,"Jetstream," which I've since learned to enjoy but was at first a little bored with. Fortunately, not only has the album grown on me, but many of the songs made quite the impact upon first listen. The title track is especially captivating - dark, stylish, emotional, and perfectly produced with haunting strings complementing the worn, but hopefuly lyrics. It's the sound of a band on top of their game, playing to their strengths without simply rehashing earlier material. What follows is an album that generally meets, and sometimes exceeds, what we've come to expect from Doves.

Other highlights include the intense rocker "The Outsiders," the smooth, grand "The Greatest Denier," and the explosive "House of Mirrors." On these more uptempo numbers, the trio sound just as sharp as they've always been, but with a grittier, more organic edge that makes the rock 'n' roll style really hit hard. Also impressive is the amount of variety on the album. Though much of the music still follows the dramatic, melancholy presentation Doves have become famous (or perhaps infamous) for, there are more than a few interesting detours here. "10:03" starts as a slow, orchestral pop tune before climaxing slowly into a frenzied guitar and drum attack, while "Compulsion" plays like a dance-rock number, funky, slick, and edgy. The stylistic flavor adds some welcome spice to an album that could have been too weighty or self-serious without it.

Closer "Lifelines" finishes things off spectacularly and epically, a seeming testament to the fact that Doves have plenty of life left to enjoy and music to offer. Kingdom of Rust is the kind of album you hope a talented band would produce after four years of silence - consistent, well-executed, and full of ideas. Doves may have lost the spotlight, but it's apparent that they haven't lost their edge. Let's just hope it doesn't take so long for the next record.

You can hear the entire album over at the band's MySpace, though I'm not sure how long the offer holds.