Posted by: Nick Walters | June 7, 2009

Doves: Kingdom of Rust

Even the cat looks bored

Even the cat looks bored

Something about this doesn’t excite me, and I’m not sure what. It’s not a bad album by any means, nor are Doves a bad band. Some of the songs here – the title track, Jetstream and Winter Hill especially – are fantastic. Perhaps its because it’s my first Doves album, in fact I know nothing of their other work. Or perhaps it’s just the universal critical praise heightening my expectations too much. Or perhaps it’s because the lumbering “funk” experiment, Compulsion, the longest track on the album, is shite. Really, REALLY shite. They seem to be trying to sound like Blondie, for fuck’s sake! Come on, lads, have some dignity – it’s not funky, it’s not experimental, it’s just bad, a b-side piss-around at best. Now I know Doves used to be Sub Sub, but that doesn’t forgive Compulsion. A far better example of their fusion of elegaic mope-rock and dance is Jetstream with its propulsive bass and skittering rhythms. If more of the album were in this vein, well yay, but, sadly, it ain’t.

Kingdom of Rust, the song, is the best thing here, following on from Jetstream and sending expectations rocketing even higher for the rest of the album. With a great tune, Wild West riffs, and a sense of bleak forlorn open spaces, this is the song that made me sit up and notice. Again if the rest of the album had been up to scratch, whooo. But then we get The Outsiders which I can’t even remember, and there are several other tracks which similarly fail to lodge in the memory. Birds Flew Backwards almost erases itself as you listen to it. Unfortunately, I can’t forget Compulsion, for all the wrong reasons. The closing tracks which follow, the frantic Mirrorball and the slightly twee ballad Lifelines, aren’t enough to make up for it.

It’s like the last Elbow album, which also fails to move me. Competent, heartfelt, professional, worthy, critically lauded, Northern. (And it’s not because I’m a southern Jessie that Doves don’t work for me; most of my favourite bands are from up North: The Fall, Smiths, Beautiful South etc.) Funnily enough there are two tracks – Spellbound by Doves and The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver by Elbow – which sound exactly and interchangeably the same. Swap the CDs round in their cases and I’d barely notice.

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