Formed in Hulme in the mid 80's and splitting in 1990, Dub Sex have long been in contention for the title of Manchester's greatest cult band. Following shows in 2014, including gigs with friends Inspiral Carpets, it was clear there was still much love for a band who played shows with their contemporaries Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses back in the late eighties. 2019 sees the issue of the definitive Dub Sex compilation and some live shows to accompany the release. Stuart Ralston takes a nostalgic look back.
Hailed by Tony Wilson, John Peel and John Robb, the band released debut single Tripwire! in 1987. Peel was a fan from the off, playing the demo of Tripwire! and inviting the band to record four sessions for his show. Search For The Right Words brings together their complete studio recordings (and a couple of tracks from the Peel Sessions) for the first time.
Chris Nagle, Martin Hannett and Joy Division's engineer, was at the helm for all of Dub Sex's recordings, producing timeless post punk classics. The Tripwire EP - the oldest recordings presented here - are over 30 years old yet retain a freshness and an edge that many contemporary bands lack. At the core of Dub Sex were singer / guitarist Mark Hoyle and the formidable rhythm section of Cathy Brooks (later of The Rainkings) on bass and Roger Cadman on drums. For me, Man On The Inside is the highlight of the first EP. It's a big and expansive piece of music, in contrast to the sharp, fast paced Tripwire! Green, the other b side, has much more of a groove, showcasing the versatility of the band, yet in Hoyle's powerful, meanacing vocals there remains a constant.
The seven track Push mini album followed soon after and was the first LP to be released on the seminal Ugly Man record label, later home to Man From Delmonte, Elbow and I Am Kloot. Over the course of Push, there's no let up and each and every time packs a punch. Splintered is one of many highlights. It's easy to see where bands like Manc funksters New Fast Automatic Daffodils drew inspiration from. Believe, for me, encapsulates the energy and power of Joy Division.
The band reached the peak of their adulation with the release of 1989 single Swerve. Swerve and b-sides I Am Not Afraid and The Big Freeze saw the band move into more pop orientated territory. The Big Freeze in particular encapsulates that Manc pop sound with guitarist Chris Bridgett managing to capture the same spirit as Johnny Marr.
Peel sessions always seem to bring the best out in bands, recorded quickly, as if live, with no time for re-recording or overdubs often suited bands (see Peel sessions by James, Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays for some fine examples) and the two Peel session tracks included here - Snapper and North By North East - are no exception and they capture Dub Sex at their most potent.
Whilst Swerve was well received, featuring on John Peel's Festive Fifty, last single Time of Life was less popular. By now of course, Madchester was in full swing and seemed to have left Dub Sex unfairly sidelined. However, Time of Life and Kumina are both essential additions to the Dub Sex back catalogue. The final track on this massive twenty-three song disc is drawn from the Edward Not Edward compilation LP of 1989 and is a cover of Edward Barton's Barber Barber. It's the most experimental track on the album, almost avant-garde and a marked contrast to the high energy punk of Tripwire!
With much of their back catalogue only available on vinyl, Search For The Right Words is a handy compact compilation for the die-hards and a great way for new listeners to discover one of Manchester's most respected bands. Dub Sex will be playing shows with Chameleons Vox to support the release at Brundell Social Club (Leeds, May 24th) and The Trades Club (Hebden Bridge, May 27th), with more dates to follow.
Dub Sex's website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
Search For The Right Words can be purchased from here.
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