Friday, 28 January 2011
The Return of Dubstar
In 1981, riding on the crest of the New Wave, a band called The Passions released a single entitled ‘I’m in Love With a German Film Star’, as a precursor to their album, ‘Thirty Thousand Feet Over China’. It was to be a sizable hit and regrettably, their only hit but it remains a monumental slice of minimalist dream-pop, all echo-y guitar figures, pumping bass and Barbara Gogan’s cool vocal waffling on about posing Germans drifting in and out of the aural architecture. I loved it at the time and I love it today. It and the subsequent album have places permanently reserved in my all time Hall of Fame.
Fast forward to a little over 10 years later, and a band called Dubstar was being formed by DJ Steve Hillier and guitarist Chris Wilkie. Realising that they needed a proper singer, they recruited northern lass, Sarah Blackwood and struck gold with their first single, ‘Stars’ - a dizzy mix of DJ dance and electro-pop but with a proper melody and real guitars. Three albums followed which highlighted their flair for a good tune, a deft arrangement and Sarah’s dour Halifax vowels. Interestingly, she has since put on record that she always found Dubstar’s interval-jumping melodies difficult to sing, but they always sounded fine to me. So much so that at least two of the three albums have pride of place in my collection.
Nevertheless, by 2000 after disappointing sales of the third album and a kiss-of-death ‘Best Of’ had appeared, it was clear that they had run their course and eventually Sarah left to become half of a new duo, Client (of whom I have posted previously) with Kate Holmes. A series of industrial electro-pop albums ensued but they never rose above cult status.
And so we arrive at the present where finally these two strands of musical history cross and a new star is born. I hear with unbounded joy that Dubstar have reformed and as a sign of intent have recorded a song for ‘Peace’, an Amnesty International benefit compilation. Guess what it is? Yes, it’s a cover of ‘I’m in Love With a German Film Star’. And it’s not half bad. Not tremendously different from the original but it still conveys the original dream-pop ambience beautifully. Only with north-country vowels. Bliss.