Disgraceful, by Dubstar
Suggested by Neil Hodgkinson
I thought I knew Dubstar. I was wrong.
For some reason, when this album was Randomised, I thought I’d be reviewing some Nineties UK urban rap / dance act. I could picture them, in my head, a crew of six to eight Asian youths in colourful yet trendy (for the time) athletic outer wear. I could even hear their hit single, in my head, although on further reflection the song was actually Out of Space by The Prodigy.
I’ve no clue why I thought this. The name just fired something in my brain, and the band were Duly Known. There was not a single second where I searched for their name in my memory banks, or in which I doubted my conjured yet self-evident truth. There was simply the fact, plain as day. Dubstar? Yeah, I know them. They did that “another dimension” song.
It gets worse. When I did listen to this album, my immediate reaction wasn’t “hullo, who the hell is this?” It wasn’t even the slightly more understandable “hey, this isn’t Dubstar.” No, my immediate reaction was “why am I listening to Chumbawamba?”
For those like me who assumed Dubstar were someone completely different, let me enlighten you. Dubstar are, in fact, and indie-dance duo / sometime trio from the mid-Nineties. Disgraceful is their critically acclaimed debut album, released in 1995, a time that should be prime and puckered, resplendent in its pride of place at the epicentre of my musical map.
The sound is pure Nineties, heavier on the indie than the dance, and rather surprisingly bereft of the usual influences you’d find in pre-Millennium indie noise, like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. The indie-pop layered synths are smooth and melodic, but the star of the show has to be the assured vocals from Sarah Blackwood. She brings such poise and precision to the mix, elevating the collected parts into a more graceful and glorious whole.
There are two standout singles on Disgraceful, the first of which is the band’s most popular song: Stars. This light and spacious loungecore dance number builds from a breathy and intricate verse into a rather exultant chorus. It’s a track that has been remixed countless times by countless acts, as is the nature of the scene. While it’s a cracking song, for me, the true star of this particular show is the sublime Not So Manic Now, with its working-class chic and a deft lyric that stands askance of conventional expectation. It’s this song that was previously stuck in my head as an excellent offering from Chumbawamba, much to my embarrassment. Interestingly, it’s not actually a Dubstar composition either: it’s a track by the Wakefield band Brick Supply. Their version is pure indie, and also worth a listen.
The other songs on Disgraceful? All decent. No out and out belters, but no lame ducks either. Of particular note is the lilting Just A Girl She Said, and The Elevator Song, which manages to be both punchy and laid back at the same time.
Despite being thrown for a proverbial loop by my own misfiring memory, I came out of this a wiser man with a penchant for the Dubstar sound. Disgraceful gets 7/10, as it’s a lot more graceful than the title suggests.