DUBSTAR Disgraceful (Food)

No sooner was I moaning in the last Feedback about the (hopefully temporary) demise of Saint Etienne (and to add insult to injury I’ve since heard that the equally excellent Northern Picture Library are also no more) but along come Dubstar, with a sound that’s so almost like the aforementioned frothmongers at their best I’m almost prepared to overlook the production presence of one Stephen Vague a.k.a. the man who ruined NewOrder. Dubstar weave Sarah Blackwood’s Sarah-Cracknell-after-singing-lessons-meets-Kirsty-MacColl vocals around spangly synths and dub-lite basslines, often to startling effect, witness the opening track "Stars" which opens with just the slightest dab of "Funky Drummer", and the tower-block ennui scenario of the wonderful "Not So Manic Now". Also of note are the luscious and lovely "The Day I See You Again" ("If the man you’ve grown to be’s/ more Morrison than Morrissey" - though whether its Jim or Van remains undisclosed) and a considered cover of Billy Bragg’s "St. Swithin’s Day". The other seven tracks are a bit less substantial, but no worse than Saint Etienne or Northern Picture Library’s less inspired moments. Highly recommended as one of the year’s first genuinely pleasant surprises...

DUBSTAR Goodbye (Food)

Dubstar’s debut album "Disgraceful" contained enough sparkly electropop gems to convince me that I’d found the perfect band to fill the void created by the departure of Saint Etienne’s talent - heck, they even looked the same, with a blonde female vocalist and two backroom boy muso types – but my belated acquisition of their 1997 second album sadly suggests that they’ve emulated the Etienne’s trip down the rubbish chute of pop in a fraction of the time.

There’s nothing actually offensive about "Goodbye" – unless you’re rankled by the cover image, a rather literal interpretation of the phrase ‘electric chair’ – but equally, much like recent Etienne albums, there’s nothing memorable here either. None of the fifteen tracks (fifteen! Not that they’re spreading their talent thinly or anything) contain so much as a hummable melody or thought-provoking lyric: at best they’re ‘nice’ – "Ghost", for example – but much of the time they struggle to attain even that faint praise. And, from any band who had shown as much initial promise as Dubstar, is a real shame.