It’s been a long, strange odyssey for the Dub Pistols. At the turn of the century the London big beat-dub outfit was poised for a major breakthrough. Then the 9/11 attacks temporarily derailed the release of their overtly political debut album Six Million Ways to Live.
However despite being dropped by his label, Pistols frontman and main instigator Barry Ashworth regrouped and soldiered on. Twelve years later the Dub Pistols have released four full-length studio albums and become a must-see live act in the UK.
The Dub Pistols have only just resurfaced with their latest outing; Worshipping the Dollar. An eclectic mash-up of dub, hip-hop, ska, techno, and punk, the new album sees the band in particularly good form, having honed their high-energy sound by rocking massive festival crowds across the UK and Europe for the past decade. As with previous Dub Pistols releases, Worshipping the Dollar features a cavalcade of rappers, MCs, reggae toasters and other featured vocalists.
The album’s kicks-off track “Alive,” a bombastic dub-techno anthem featuring Barbados born reggae sensation Red Star Lion, is an instant attention grabber. Next up is “West End Story,” a hybrid of UK garage and ska with lyrics inspired by the riots that gripped the UK last summer. Dub Pistols mainstay Rodney P. makes his return on “Mucky Weekend,” a breakbeat-driven sarcastic tale of unrepentant debauchery.
“Bang Bang” is a slinky techno reggae number featuring vocals from electro swing duo Kitten and the Hip. With it’s hooky chorus and contemporary take on the eerie two-tone ska sound first pioneered by the Special AKA, it could almost be mistaken for a Lily Allen number, were it not for its explicit lyrics. “New Skank” is a Latin-flavored techno ska number, featuring London reggae singer Dan Bowskill, and rapper T.K. Lawrence (another Dub Pistols mainstay).
“Rock Steady” is an effervescent techno meets lover’s rock number that features ragamuffin-rap vocals from Rodney P. and shimmering choruses voiced by former Beats International singer Lindy Layton. Another standout is “Gunshot,” a techno skanker with dub horns, dancehall ragga-style video game samples, and vocals by Rodney P. and Darrison.
The album’s closer, “Give a Little Dub” is arguably the closest thing to true reggae on the album. With a soulful lead vocal by Bunna, it’s a layered dub with sonic techno noise interwoven between bubbling basslines and echo-drenched guitars.
If there is anything at all to be disappointed over regarding Worshipping the Dollar, it’s that there’s no cameo from Specials frontman and regular Pistols collaborator, Terry Hall this time out.
But with the Dub Pistols having largely shied away from politics over the last few years, it’s refreshing to see Ashworth and co. train their eye back on the problems currently afflicting the UK and the rest of the world.
Many of the band’s big beat contemporaries have long ago faded, while other genre splicing provocateurs such as Primal Scream have seemingly gone off the boil. But with Worshipping the Dollar, the Dub Pistols have once again staked their claim as the UK’s premier conscious party provocateurs.