No one would ever mistake Doves for an industrial-music act, but the long-running English trio includes plenty of machine-age images in its latest album, Kingdom of Rust. The CD-booklet photos picture the girders and beams of train trestles—actually the Great American Railway, a massive model-train exhibit at the Northlandz museum in Flemington, New Jersey—and similar motifs inform the lyrics. “Walking through woods to the power lines/Saw birds fly backwards in perfect line,” Jimi Goodwin sings on “Birds Flew Backwards”.
Reached at his hotel room in San Diego, where the singer, who also plays bass and guitar, is just waking up after the first night of Doves’ North American tour, Goodwin points out that images of the natural world—stormy seas, changing seasons, and those wrong-way-around birds—actually outnumber those of the human-made.
“ ”˜Kingdom of Rust’, those opening images, like the cooling towers and stuff, it reminds me of an industry that’s gone, and nature’s reclaimed it,” he says of the album’s title track. “You know, when you get those sites or derelict yards and things, and nature’s taken over because it’s been abandoned. Nature will reclaim what is rightfully its.”
That’s a heady theme, so it’s no wonder the band (which also features brothers Jez and Andy Williams on guitar and drums, respectively, as well as long-time sideman Martin Rebelski on keyboards) spent longer creating Kingdom of Rust than it took on any of its previous three records. Four years isn’t an epic amount of time in the grand scheme of things, but it was enough of a break that the U.K. press has dubbed the new disc a comeback.
“It took a little longer than we anticipated, but we wanted to get it right,” Goodwin says, explaining that, like partners in a long-standing marriage, the group’s members need to work to keep things from getting stale. “After being together so long, the lines of communication have to be reopened, really, to try to find a new way to stimulate each other and get it going.”
If Kingdom of Rust is any indication, Doves discovered an ample amount of fresh inspiration. The album infuses the band’s soaring, melody-driven rock with new ingredients, from the “Trans-Europe Express” electro groove of “Jetstream” to the dusty-roads country beat of the title song and the once-upon-a-time-in-the-West twang of “House of Mirrors”. According to Goodwin, he and his fellow Doves aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, they’re just trying to keep themselves excited about making music.
“That’s all we ever try to do—try and find new ways to express ourselves as a band,” he says. “We’re not making new positions that have never been done. It’d kind of be impossible now, wouldn’t it, in the 21st century? The 20th century was just so incredible for music—well, pop music, anyway, from the history of the blues on upward. It’s all kind of been done, really. But it’s incredible, with 12 chords there’s still myriad ways of playing them.”
Doves play the Commodore Ballroom tonight (May 21).