If Coldplay and Muse had a lovechild born without the self-indulgent swag of high-nosed, arena rock grandeur, I'd imagine it'd sound something like Doves. After having already quietly topped the UK charts with their previous two albums, the latest offering from the Cheshire trio, Kingdom of Rust, can be viewed as an attempt to penetrate the finicky taste of American pop rock. Unfortunately, Britpop that makes its way through the NME filter and across the Atlantic is often relegated to the Gallaghers and Chris Martins of the world, and quite frankly that's a shame, because Doves are as talented at song craft as they are unassuming in their musical identities.
The songs on Kingdom of Rust are anthemic, in a sense, but they compose themselves in such a way that, unlike Muse, they aren't trying to be more than what they arethey're not trying to be Radiohead 2.0. Nothing here is fabricated, which works in Doves' favor because nothing is more difficult in modern music culture than sincere artistry. Doves come across as genuine, in the same way that Jimmy Eat World were able to succeed almost a decade ago in spite of underwhelming personal brandingthey were real in what they were trying to do, which made their music easier to digest. Doves are similar in that vein, sticking to their guns and doing so with consistency.
Kingdom of Rust is a difficult album to define, because it sounds progressive but isn't challenging to listen to, which can perhaps be attributed to the band's consistency and talent for songcraft. It's not quite pop, and not quite experimental, but it uses all the tools of experimentation without ever really experimenting. Underneath the lush fuzz and loops of five billion effects pedals swirl undercurrents of melody and swaying dance beats that you can't quite nail down. Rather than blowing you away, the tracks instead grow on you-- like moss on cobblestone. "Jetstream" opens the album with a pulsing gallop sitting under a wall of reverb, segwaying into the title track "Kingdom of Rust", which trades for a caravanish cowboy twang. "10:03" is a strong exercise in balladry that never sounds sing-songy, and is able to tug lightly at the heartstrings with only the slightest hint of cheese.
Straight through, Kingdom of Rust is a strong outing for Doves. It may or may not make itself a home on American radio, which is okay in any case. They'll probably never reach Viva la Vida territory nor appear in iPod commercials, but they're much more deserving of a slot on your actual iPod than most of those other British chart toppers. Of course, in definitive Doves-like fashion, they'll probably do so unassumingly. -Chris Gayomali