The emotional landscape of its new release includes hope as well as despair
PREVIEW After generously treating its fans to an agonizing four-year wait,
Manchester-based trio Doves decided it was time. They recorded the 11 tracks that make up their fourth LP in a converted barn in the sprawling Cheshire countryside, a part of England that like the group itself is roughly as fashionable as a rhinestone-bedazzled fanny pack.
The result of this labor is Kingdom of Rust (Heavenly/Astralwerks), a collection that combines unabashed, fist-pumping spirit with the murky melancholy that defines Doves' at times brilliant 10-plus-year career. While the trio has always been adept at heartbreaking dirges (see: "The Sulphur Man"; "The Cedar Room"), the emotional landscape of its new release includes hope as well as despair. For every haunting ballad ("Birds Flew Backwards"; "Lifelines"), there are a pair of powerful anthems albeit ones with touches of melancholy that are driven by pounding drums, vocalist/bassist Jimi Goodwin's soulful warble, and expansive arrangements.
Built around a swirling riff by guitarist Jez Williams, "Winter Hill" uncoils into the group's catchiest number to date. Rollicking tracks like "Spellbound" and "The Outsiders" beg to be played live. Thanks to YouTube, it's already clear they are even better in concert.
Bands are usually applauded for finding a winning formula and sticking to it (read: musical stagnation) or experimenting for the sake of it (read: resorting to desperate measures after running out of melodic ideas). Rarely are they praised for naturally progressing and maturing. But Doves have shown time and again that they don't need the awards and the plaudits. They'll happily keep making great records and filling theaters. All we have to do is listen.
DOVES With Wild Light. Mon/18, 8 p.m., $27.50. The Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000, www.thefillmore.com>.