A beautifully judged return from the indie legends...

It has been eleven years, and Doves’ return marks a novel and monumental chapter in a durable career tinged with acclaim and success.

But the Manchester trio have not been resting on their laurels, far from it. Following a series of projects, it is time to breathe some fresh air into the legacy.

Signs of activity have been noted. There was a writing session in the Peak District in 2017 and some shows calling at London’s Royal Albert Hall and Somerset House last year. Things have been brewing for a while, focusing on the culmination of a fifth studio album this year. Involving the past as much as the present, this record exhibits an expression of clarity from start to finish. With fluidity and ease aplenty, the ten songs on ‘The Universal Want’ render a soulful, elevated journey visiting outer and inner locations, providing the listener with a sense of fulfilment.

A mighty project of insight, album opener ‘Carousels’ offers stellar vibrancy, and the inclusion of a Tony Allen drum sample adds inventive structure. Crisp-sounding and bouncy, the melodic textures uncover a song of beauty and create a pathway that leads to ‘I Will Not Hide’.

Dreamy and atmospheric, wavy guitar lines are produced, forming a structure in and around the melody before the organic flow and chorus of ‘Broken Eyes’ take centre stage. So far, every tune has delivered and contributed to a rapturous listen.

Elsewhere, the emotive ‘Prisoners’ tackles the subject of mental health. An inspired guitar-driven moment, it builds with drama, “When there’s blood on the stage/Could you face your fears?/It all ends here/The minutes the hours,/Days and years.” Then ‘Cycle of Hurt’ lightens the mood with lucidity and soft-spoken dogmatism, it provides determination and a way out.

With some inspiration taken from Afrobeat, ‘Mother Silver Lake’ furnishes percussive energy, and the song depicts an impressive experimental edge. Deriving from a session where fresh ideas burgeoned. Its distinct subtlety, seemingly close to a nocturnal feel, adds positive feelings of inner calm and strength.

Title track ‘Universal Want’ is a moment of substance. In a critical voice, it questions consumerist trends and asks, “How long til we see what I really want/’til we see what we really need/The universal.”

An undeniable win, the outcome of Doves’ return to the studio is more than worth the paper it is written on. A long-awaited treat, it deserves a warm welcome.

8/10

Words: Susan Hansen

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