Album: Doves, Kingdom of Rust (Heavenly)
Friday 03 April 2009
Where its predecessor's songs reflected an underlying sense of loss, these are full of hope and uplift, concluding with the resolve of "Lifelines": "Somebody's giving in, but I'm not/ Somebody's given up a whole lot".
The album has the best opening sequence I've heard this year, with the jittery Krautrock motorik and evocative keyboard progression of "Jetstream" building up a stadium-sized momentum before subsiding to allow the sublime title track to develop its own persuasive power. A relaxed, cantering number with a widescreen Western feel, "Kingdom of Rust" has the sort of graceful, reflective melody Leonard Cohen might have devised and the sentiment to match, Jimi Goodwin observing how "my god seeks an ocean of trust in the kingdom of rust". It gets brasher and more assertive, but without disturbing the gentle impetus of brushed snare that drives it resolutely along.
"The Outsiders" continues the Wordsworthian slant, with its muscular bass and cycling guitar figure carrying the sly notion of "Just the universe/ Making fools of us/ Just the two of us", before "Winter Hill" ushers us into the kind of bracing rural psychedelia that might have emanated from Traffic's country cottage, full of spangly guitars, fluting mellotron and backward tape effects.
There are seasonal references and natural imagery throughout, from the stormy seas of "Jetstream" to the swallows of "Birds Flew Backwards", and a complementary sense of separation, or decoupling, from the world, with the protagonist either flashing through the landscape (the train journey of "10.03") or standing still and alone in that landscape, watching vehicles flash past. It's a significant distance from the grim urban quagmire of Some Cities, and they sound all the better for it.
"Compulsion" is an unusual disco-funk groove in the 1980s crossover style of Ze Records, while "House of Mirrors" uses the looking-glass as a metaphor for memories, the endless reflections themselves analogised by the ever-deepening layers of guitar – the chiming arpeggios, the tart rock chording, the louche slide licks, and the barely restrained splutters of astringent guitar noise – which bind the lyric to its melody. Like everything else about the album, it's all carefully worked out, plotted and planned, but without once adopting the condescending assumptions common to the stadium acts whose position Doves will surely challenge. Album of the year? Quite possibly.
Download this: 'Jetstream', 'Kingdom of Rust', '10.03'
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