When lined up alongside the Britpop acts of their era, there was something a bit different about Dubstar. Stars first scraped into the Top 40 a month before the infamous NME Blur vs Oasis cover, but they had more in common with Pet Shop Boys, perhaps because Stephen Hague helmed their first two albums. If they’d flared early, however, they fizzled out five years later amid panic attacks and a crippling, if bemusing lack of self-confidence. Now, 18 years on, Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie, Dubstar’s remaining members, appear to have recovered, and though this unexpected return may sound less distinctive, its maturity is beneficial and possibly no less commercially appealing.

Admittedly, there’s something magpie-like about I Hold Your Heart, as though Saint Etienne had picked apart the appeal of both Brotherhood Of Man and Stock Aitken & Waterman, and Mantra, which merges the sound of Elbow at their most anthemic with the blurry bliss of a euphoric Slowdive. They sound more organic, too, as Please Stop Leaving Me Alone underlines with its acoustic guitars. The dark lyrical shadows of earlier work remain intact, however: the lovely Waltz No.9 finds Blackwood declaring “Your death comes in June”. They definitely deserve longer than that.

Review: Dubstar - One

Written by Wyndham Wallace. Released on Northern Writes.

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