tue 21/05/2024

Album: Dubstar - Two | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Dubstar - Two

Album: Dubstar - Two

1990s pop duo return with a lush exercise in likeable, wistful melancholy

Taking a penthouse view of a grey world

Dubstar didn’t really fit the niche where the 1990s put them. Signed to Food Records, original home of Blur, they were lumped in with Britpop but their music was always closer to the thoughtful electronic pop of Saint Etienne, and they also had – and have – something in common with Pet Shop Boys.

Their new album, their fifth and second since reuniting a few years back, is permeated with a wistful sadness, pinpointed by smartly prosaic lyrics and sweetly doleful orchestration.

Two is produced by Stephen Hague, who was at the desk for their first two albums, producing all those songs that Nineties sorts may know (and Israelis – they were chart-toppers there!), notably “Stars” and “Not So Manic Now”. The duo of singer Sarah Blackwood and synth whizz/arranger Chris Wilkie have mixed feelings about their peak period, tinted with regret at being swept along, losing their way a bit, with Blackwood developing a toxic relationship with booze.

“I’ve waited for years/I’ve harvested tears for every glass on the shelf/I wanted to tell but I buried my fears/Forsaking my mental and my physical health,” she sings on the lovely opener “Token”. While the album is patchy, the best of it is seamed with a deliciously crafted melancholy. Rather than the kitchen sink snapshots that made their debut shine, this seems personal, drawn from hard experience. The slow, piano-led “Tears” is another case in point.

Two is not a morose album, though, the songs, while stately rather than bumping, have lift; check the allegory-laden “Hygiene Strip” with its wonderful lines “You always looked more approachable in casual shirts” and “This isn’t Hollywood and Holly wouldn’t have done the things you told me I should.” Even the one stark piano ballad, the closing “Perfect Circle” balances worldly, wordy suss with a touching, dispirited longing.

If Pet Shop Boys is a reference, then Behaviour is the one to look to here. Two is not as perfect as that album, but it has its deliciously dolorous moments.

Below: Watch the video for "Token" by Dubstar

Permeated with a wistful sadness, pinpointed by smartly prosaic lyrics, and sweetly doleful orchestration


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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