Maturity isn’t exactly high on the list of sensationalist rock ’n’ roll qualities. Next to charisma, showmanship and posing on motorcycles with one’s shirt off, a well-rounded base of knowledge just doesn’t quite get the collective pulse pounding. Teen girls don’t moon after American Idol contestants because, ‘He’s, like, sooo experientially centred.’ If they did, Leonard Cohen would be collaborating with The Pussycat Dolls right now.
So the news that Doves, already a famously grown-up band, have reached full-on, Roquefort-standard maturity with their new album, Kingdom Of Rust, is possibly not the most thrilling story of your year. The record itself, however, is practically guaranteed to get your juices flowing.
Given that the two bands share certain geographical and sartorial similarities, the word on the street is that Doves are now poised to ‘do an Elbow’. Are the band sick of hearing about that yet? ‘Oh, well, it’s probably payback,’ says nominal Doves frontman Jimi Goodwin. ‘Because they’ve probably had “Are you gonna do a Doves?” for years, and now they’re like, “Bye! See you, guys!” They’re f***ing huge, and it’s well deserved. They’re good friends of ours – similar kind of story, they’ve been dropped, picked up the pieces, got on with it, honed their thing, never dreamed of splitting up.’
Kingdom Of Rust is a left-of-centre indie-rock opus with shades of Krautrock, white funk, new-wave production flourishes and classic rock songwriting, which is marked out by its attention to detail. On the surface, it’s saturated with ‘pastoral’ imagery, steeped in Doves’ post-industrial northern English environment. ‘It’s like walking round an industrial estate that’s almost gone back to nature,’ muses Goodwin.
‘There’s loads of places where wildlife sort of thrives, even though the area’s purpose has gone. Whatever it was built for has gone, and the nature’s reclaiming it.’ What really makes Kingdom Of Rust sing, though, is its healthy dose of soul – in the old-fashioned, sleeve-hearted, say-what-you-mean sense. ‘There’s a lot of emotion in our records,’ says Goodwin. ‘I wouldn’t wanna analyse where that comes from, but a lot of heavy s*** went on around us with this record. A lot of personal family stuff – illness and death and all sorts. But also new life; birth – it’s been a mad, mad, mad few years.’
Indeed it has. The band have been off-world recording Kingdom Of Rust for a long time – four years in fact, during which time Kaiser Chiefs have released three albums (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course; we’re just saying). But it would be a mistake to infer that this means Doves have a lethargic work rate. Rather, the wait is a consequence of Kubrick-esque quality control. The band have been in the studio five, sometimes seven, days a week over this period, during which they wrote and recorded more than 40 songs. .
‘The fact that we went to work gave us this, well, I could say sanity,’ says Goodwin. ‘That was the only way of coping with all of the stuff that was going on around us. And obviously it wasn’t easy going in there some days. I didn’t wanna be there, but you have to be there.’ As on the album, Goodwin doesn’t detail any specific events. It isn’t exactly Doves’ style to bare all in salacious confessionals. Rather, their emotional states are expressed purely through their work, which is a grand enough ambition in a headline-hungry age. After all, the band started out as dance producers Sub Sub in the era when a public profile was considered both credibility suicide and an open invitation for police surveillance.
Part of their appeal is that you can dig their music without having to care about what they had for breakfast. ‘I’m with you on that one,’ chuckles Goodwin. ‘But then it gets interpreted as this “astoundingly ordinary blokes from the North [of England]” story, and I think it’s f****** lazy really. But at the same time I don’t want anyone knowing my business. Sad to say – no, proud to say – it really is all about the music. And these days apparently that’s not allowed, or there has to be a twist.’
Indeed, the necessary twist has been forced upon them, making them the victims of the notorious ‘reverse Gallagher’. In fact, what’s often interpreted as dourness, gloominess, or introspection is actually just an endearing humility. Goodwin acknowledges that one of the great challenges of recording Kingdom Of Rust was justifying the band’s continued existence to themselves (‘It was a case of prising it out of us. Was the chemistry still there? And thank God it is.’) We can probably look forward to a future B-side called ‘I’d Probably Find It A Bit Embarrassing To Be Adored’.
‘Obviously, there’s fascinating people with charisma and you wanna know about them. Neil Young, Scott Walker, people like that – legendary people,’ says Goodwin. ‘But the flipside is I still don’t like being called some binman from the north. Don’t insult me, it’s rude! You know, where’s your manners?’
Kingdom Of Rust is available in stores.