Two. As far as album titles go, this one’s pretty unassuming. It’s got some very simple explanatory logic behind it too; it’s the second album Dubstar have released since officially reforming, and it follows 2018’s One. It’s an almost infuriatingly unassuming album title, because shimmering beneath are ten tracks of oiled, polished and chromed synthpop, worthy of very un-humble touting.
But then, Dubstar have always been modest, even within their music. Though they so highly produce their electronic instrumentation, they’re proprietors of kitchen sink lyricism. In this way, they’re a direct reflection of the incongruities of city life; their kitchen sink is inside a high-rise breezeblocked apartment. Dubstar are the sometimes bleak human existence backed by the sometimes ironic glisten of metropolis (“get me out of this place, get me out of this place” sings Sarah Blackwood in ‘Blood’). The city theming is immediately apparent in Two’s imposing cover art; a slick and imposing CGI building, all grey and brutal and beautiful.
Realism in lyrical content is perhaps never bleaker than in wake of the pandemic (“waiting my space in the queue, see me just behind the striped line” in ‘Hygiene Strip’), yet Two manages to deliver an oblique sense of hope. Maybe it’s Blackwood’s lush northern vocals, ever crystalline. Maybe it’s the illusions to the bright classics of 80s new wave (there’s an undeniable Gary Numan touch in ‘Tectonic Plates’). Maybe it’s the fullness in the layering and layering of synth.
Two is the perfect companion with which to walk through busy streets in the cold rain, with an umbrella and a sense of purpose (as the band indeed do in the ‘Token’ music video). Two is both a romanticisation and a grounding for the modern urbanite. Two is shiny and irresistable.