Sarah Blackwood a compelling performer

Dubstar Berlin Bar, Brighton
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The Independent Online
In the past few years, lazy pop wannabes have offered us everything from the New Wave of New Wave to the new New Romanticism. But who could have predicted that Weimar music would make a come-back? Dubstar are not your average indie hopefuls. As the boys strike up the first gothic notes of "Not Once, Not Ever", singer Sarah Blackwood materialises on stage, her voice as dangerous as silence, her child's face burdened with thick false eyelashes. She sounds like the girl trying to stay calm before the storm because she is the only one who knows it's coming. Kurt Weill would have loved her. That Dubstar are playing one of their first ever dates at the Brighton Berlin Bar is more than apt.

Blackwood sounds like a young Marianne Faithfull, but has the aura of Faithfull today - despite the ice-queen good looks, she is a real girl's girl. On "Just a Girl", she coos, "It's all right/ It's all right/ I'm just a girl she said/ Talk down to me/ And take me to bed." Like Princess Diana's Panorama description of her affair with James Hewitt - "I adored him and he let me down" - Blackwood's lyrics speak to every girl. She reaches for notes she couldn't possibly hit and then makes it every time, as the band play on: angel-food pretty keyboards and nuclear sky bass. They are breathtaking, and heartbreaking, like fairy lights dying on the 12th day of Christmas.

She stands shock still throughout, but, like Liam Gallagher, her inertia is completely compelling. Her and our attempts to dance to the creepy keyboard lullabies are futile. We are almost jumping around to the upbeat current single "Not So Manic Now", until we realise it's a song about young men abusing old women. Just as you feel yourself being lulled by her dainty voice and the heartbeat bass, the lyrics make you feel very unsafe. It's as if you started secretly to read a teenage girl's diary and it turned out to belong to Laura Palmer.

Every now and then, Blackwood drinks from a can of Tennant's, or blushes furiously when the sound goes wrong. This girl, dressed like an alien, swigging cheap beer, blushing behind white make-up, looks how pop music should sound. It should be clean and cool but never cold, envelop you like a mist but still have tunes sharp enough to cut yourself on.

They've been compared to St Etienne and the Human League, which is hard to fathom because Dubstar are obviously so sincere, so un-kitsch. There is such menace in the hushed rhymes: "We'll take our hearts outside/ Leave our lives behind/ I'll watch the stars go out." They are the painting in your bedroom that one day, for no reason, begins to frighten you. Dubstar are a band to fall in love with and out of love to.

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