Dubstar are back.
The hugely popular dreampop band, who captured the essence of British romance over three perfectly executed albums, stopped working together in 2000. That opened the way for singer Sarah Blackwood to dress in Muji-like costumes as Client B and hammer steel with Die Krupps, but it left a hole in the charts where whimsy and irony used to meet.
A quarter of a century since they first formed, the group is back to fill the hole with One, an album of complex and subversive pop songs collected under a title that signals the reboot of their project. As always with Dubstar, love is not an easy subject, but it really isn’t for those around them.
For an outsider, it is hard to know how to love a Briton. The repression that is released after large glasses of chablis is rarely revealed in daylight hours and is best summed up by the phrase, ”You’re awfully forward!” In their original incarnation, Dubstar provided glimpses into the emotional side of the island nation and set them to the tones of psychedelic pop. The girls and boys of the 90s recognised themselves in the subversive sounds and took them to heart.
Those fans have grown up now, but things haven’t changed for the kids they spawned to replace themselves. For them, One will come as a revelation: all of the issues their parents never explained to them are revealed on the new Dubstar album in ABABABB verse-chorus structure.
It’s going to come as a shock to hear about unrequitted lesbian love on the school run in ”Love Gathers.” They will look at their parents with new eyes after digesting ”Love Comes Late” and its story of feelings recognised too late.
These are subjects that other nations gaily discuss at the dinner table, surrounded by edible food that didn’t come from the Tesco Finest range. Even if things have improved over the past twenty-five years, in Britain they are still matters most comfortably expressed through pop songs. And, frankly, that’s the way they like it.
One’s material shows Dubstar has matured since we last heard them echoing in student dorms and across ravers’ fields. Sarah Blackwood’s voice has maintained its seraphinic quality, as she’s more balti than Bollinger these days. Chris Wilkie’s instrumentation reminds us what we’ve been missing since their Millennial hiatus began.
Kids who were born when Dubstar took their leave have long since left their GCSE results behind. It’s their turn to search for love and to experience the trials of romance in the land of Marmite and Monster Munch. Dubstar know what it’s like, and One is a ready guide.