doves_kingdomofrustElbow.  There I said it.  But they do get compared, don't they, Doves and Elbow.  Elbow and Doves.  And didn't Elbow do well last year.  I don't really like Elbow myself.  Don't quite buy them.  I just don't understand the whole underdog thing.  Professional Northerners?  Yawwwwwn.  They just weren't consistently good, was all.  Eight dull songs for every two good ones.  Not a terrible band.  Better than most, I dare say.But not as good as Doves.Not as cool as Doves either.  Now you might cynically say that Doves always manage to coast somewhat on that cool and get away with three or four quite dull songs on each album thus far.  And you'd be right.  But, crucially, they always include three or four absolutely fucking A+ ohmigod-that-is-just-stunning classics.  And they just groove like magnificent bastards when they're in full flight, don't they?Anyway, forget what you know about Doves albums and remember what you love about Doves.  Yes.  That feels nice, right?  There goes the fear.This record is top-to-toe stunning.  Each of the eleven songs are belting.Epic rock like New Order were epic disco. Really. Beautiful melodies, soaring choruses. Soaring gets used to describe choruses, doesn't it?  Soaring. This isn't soaring like a dove, this is more soaring like a dragon. Powerful.  Heavy. Awe-inspiring. And really fucking cool. You know, just listen to the title track. Turn on 6Music. It's probably on right now. As well it might be.  Have a listen to that song. It's a mini-symphony. Skips along on bipperty bopperty brushwork and then the canvas is painted on top of that (cheers), some C&W twang, some krauty pulses, cowboy strings, great slabs of noise-concrete, beautiful deft piano and exquisite guitar motifs, dirty White Stripes riffs, eerie devilly doom sounds, electric squiggles. It's Spector doing Morricone and and and and it's such a beautiful song. It takes talent to make all that shizzle fit together in such an effortless and unclutteresd way.The album does feel, at first, like it sags a teensy bit in the middle BUT if you go check out those songs on their own, they're amazing. It's just that the first and last thirds are titannically good.What does it all sound like, I hear you ask? Well, it sounds like Doves, silly. They haven't really changed. Still cool. Just got a huge big bit better. It's a little less based on organic sounding guitars, a touch more electronics in the mix. And the groove really is upfront on some of the tunes, baby. None of the muddy production that bedevilled the last record (don't mix while stoned, guys).  Vocals are upfront a bit more.  More confident.  Doves are more experimental; there are lots of different textures on every song. It really rewards repeated listens.  A LOT of effort went into this record.  It's a brilliant album and it's going to be your friend for a long time.How can I make you buy it?  Well, if you made a mixtape of all your favourite Doves songs thus far, well, this is better than that really rather fine CD.Some pretty funny steals too. Blondie's harmonies from Rapture. The Cure's '10.15 Saturday Night'. Um, Vince Taylor's 'Shakin' All Over'. It's beautiful modern, epic guitar rock - sometimes brooding, sometimes sexy (almost), sometimes elegiac, pretty much always uplifting.If you have ever had any time for Elbow, Interpol, Radiohead, Spoon, (that's Bunnymen, Cure or REM in old money), then you are going to LOVE it. It is shot through with something else though. Something that is missing, for the most part, on previous Doves albums: energy, fun, joy and optimism.Of course, it is music made by old dudes. But it really doesn't feel like it. The kids (man) should be making bands and records like this. Ambitious, emotional and driven. Maybe you just can't until you're older. Maybe you need a few knocks, a few disappointments to get here. But when you get there, I guess you either choose to think the glass is half empty, and have a cry about it, like Elbow, or you knock it back, down another and head off to have some fun and see what life has to offer. Like Doves.It is absolutely definitely going to be in the Top 5 of the year. Everywhere. A classic.93%Doves on Myspace