Doves have always felt a little like Elbow's extrovert alter ego; a band happier being at the heart of the maelstrom than contemplating its hung-over afterglow. Whereas Elbow can be characterised more by their cap-in-hand romanticism, Doves have always been better suited to the role of escapists. For Elbow's unabashed honesty, Doves respond in kind with vistas of widescreen imagery. While neither band would claim to represent Madchester's new dawn, both are true products of the city: equal parts self-effacing and brazen.
Bury's finest produce their best when they transplant the region's deadpan wit and warmth into their songs. Doves, on the other hand, tend to concentrate on Manchester's sense of defiance - something rooted in its urban ghettos and marked by the regular occurrence of excitable terrace anthems (Catch the Sun, There Goes The Fear, Pounding, Black And White Town). Though Mancunians would always emphasise the humility of their beloved city, ambition and fearlessness mark it and its music. From the seven-minute, effects-strewn epic to the casual inclusion of a full orchestra, neither band - like the city that bred them - is afraid of pulling punches.
With Kingdom Of Rust, Doves have spent a great deal of time (four years, in fact) holed up in training. As they confidently re-enter the ring as strutting light-heavyweights, they will be keen to dispel any accusations of ring rustiness. In many ways, Kingdom Of Rust feels like Doves might be trying to prove a point. Last Broadcast and Some Cities were both strong albums, challenging enough to be interesting over the long term and speckled with some stellar pop songs. Kingdom Of Rust focuses less on the charts and more on the reinvention of Doves. This is a band with no intention of quietly disappearing into the ether quite yet.
Perhaps reinvention is too strong a term but there can be no doubt that Kingdom Of Rust is leaner and more pumped up than previous efforts. People who have recently grown into Doves may have trouble acclimatising to the new album. Its layering is arguably more indulgent, its melodies are subtle and the whole thing seems less benign than its more immediately satisfying predecessors. If anything, Kingdom of Rust's sweet spots are much harder to discern. It is pretty clear that Doves have spent the extra time working hard to reward its audience in a new way. Like true Mancunians, they make you wait four years and then they have the temerity to ask that you to commit to repeat listens. Luckily, Kingdom Of Rust just keeps getting better with time.
Doves still like to set their sights on larger-than-life subject matter. Even the album's song titles speak of jetstreams, kingdoms, lifelines and being spellbound. Like previous albums, Kingdom Of Rust is quite happy tackling life's extremities. As inane as the idea of singing about a jetstream would appear to be, it doesn't prevent Doves from creating a barnstorming album opener, replete with Chemical Brothers-light electro meddling, swooping flange effects and a steady crescendo that constantly reignites like it were conceived on the shores of Cape Canaveral. The Outsiders bears all the bristling angst of BRMC's Whatever Happened To My Rock And Roll and 10:03's monstrous middle riff - lifted straight out of John Squire's Led Zep book - pounds itself through your floorboards, indiscriminately. The Greatest Denier is, put simply, a four-minute shot of something massively potent.
Doves are able to counter this widespread hysteria with beautifully measured moments such as the album's title track. Kingdom Of Rust's quiet highlight features brushstrokes, xylophones, strings and an illustration of Doves' comfortable grasp of pathos: "blackbirds flew in and to the cooling towers / I'll pack my bags / thinking of one of those hours with you / waiting for you". Aside from the occasional maudlin lull, Kingdom Of Rust prefers to spend its time drifting in and out of a dreamy state of schizophrenia, with very few pauses for breath.
Compulsion is easily the album's biggest surprise. It may have taken four albums and countless years but here is a Doves track you can legitimately shake your hips too - and it works an absolute treat. Borrowing heavily from Blondie's Rapture, its knowingly hip, libidinous baseline and massively reverbed riffage create something of a nympho-infested oasis amid the album's urban landscape of skyscrapers and football stadiums.
With the album's lyrics and song meanings often totally shrouded by a dense nebula of sound, you are often left to simply swoon over Kingdom Of Rust's beautiful and frequently electrifying chord progressions. Its blanketing melodies and unrelenting energy will hit you first, but then that has always separated them from their mates in Bury. Although Elbow are able to put far greater emphasis on Guy Garvey's angelic vocal talents, Doves are fully aware of their strengths and so is Kingdom Of Rust. Even if the album loses its way with its final two tracks, you are left so exhausted by this stage that it almost comes with a sense of relief. By reinventing what they do best, Doves have fearlessly strutted back onto everyone's radar.