“I Can See You Outside”
Released Friday (November 27)
ONE of the bright sparks in this dark year for the music industry has been the socially-distanced return to the studio of 90s dream popsters Dubstar.
Now the duo of Sarah Blackwood and Chris Wilkie since their return in 2018 with the Youth-produced album ‘One’, this year the pair have been collaborating again with the legendary producer Stephen Hague – the man behind some of Pet Shop Boys and New Order’s biggest hits, as well as Dubstar’s 1995 Gold-selling debut album “Disgraceful”.
The first material with Stephen Hague to be released since 1997, “Hygiene Strip” dropped down like a well-timed blessing from synth pop heaven in September.
Blackwood’s ethereal vocals were comforting like a guardian angel, with an endearing vulnerability that was perfectly captured in an ordinary fragile love story cleverly contrasted with extraordinary life under lockdown.
So, what of the new track “I Can See You Outside” that I was given an exclusive first listen to this weekend?
The pace picks up with “…Outside” and, pleasingly, it’s another catchy song which reinforces the promise for their upcoming new album “Two”, due out in 2021.
The duo say they composed the single as a “disco soundtrack for condemned night clubs and empty venues”. Well, fingers crossed it gets played in some, if they ever manage to re-open.
Recorded at the end of the first Covid-19 lockdown, “I Can See You Outside” is meant as a companion piece to “Hygiene Strip” that offers “the resolution to transcend an existential threat”.
The track kicks off with a Blondie “Heart of Glass” vibe on the sequencer and disco bongos, before some lovely melancholy chord stabs build up to the opening vocals.
“Remember the way it made you feel, tied to the wheel” Sarah inquires before taking us for a post-lockdown holiday where you “Open the case in a place where you can get away”.
Talking of getting away, I’m reliably informed that Sarah loves nothing more to escape to British Camp in Malvern whenever she can.
An early walk up the Hills, buying some local honey for sale by the car park before getting a coffee and a mooch in the shops in The Design Quarter by Ledbury is her ideal local jaunt.
Well, the Malverns certainly inspired Elgar, so it’s fair to say they may have helped Dubstar write new material too!
Back to the new single and, for all the mournful reminiscences of the verses, the chorus, is defiantly optimistic and full of positively uplifting metaphors because, after all, “If they close the ride, I can see you outside.”
This release marks another bold step for Dubstar, who are blazing a trail where many of their contemporaries arguably used to lead.
They’ve pipped their peers to the post by releasing not one but two pandemic-inspired pop songs in the year of Covid-19, but what’s really good about this track is, like all good pop songs, it will fit into another time and place with ease. Here’s hoping we get there soon.
• You can presave the new single here https://fanlink.to/dubstar-icsyo
• To hear more of Dubstar’s back catalogue (and I can recommend it) why not listen to their “Dubstarter” playlist on Spotify at https://spoti.fi/3kNWxC4
• Here’s the full video of “I Can See You Outside”