First, there was ‘The Rise and Fall of a Northern Star,’ semi-autobiographical one-woman splay scripted by Stella Grundy, formerly of Intastella. Centred around 9 songs. It provided the material for her first solo album in 2015. And now, 20 years after ‘Nuphonia’, Stella’s rebooted the band with Jonathan Hurts and Jah Wobble.
Other writing and performing credits on the album include John Cooper Clarke, John Robb / The Membranes, Nick McCabe (The Verve) and The Smiths’ rhythm section, Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon. It’s pitched as a concept album, and while the overt concept is the narrative of the character, Tracy Star, traying to make it in the male-dominated Manchester music scene, the location can be seen as being as much part of the narrative and the concept, and Manchester oozes from every bar, every note.
Musically, it’s a varied affair, with a keen experimental bent informing the dance / pop stylings that provide the main thrust of cohesion.
On the 9-minute ‘Unzip Your Revolution’, Wobble’s phat bass strolls all over a sparse, echoed beat to create a super-dubby and atmospheric piece that transitions through some more overtly driving dance segments. The glam-punk stomp of ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Crime’ featuring The Membranes is corking, with an infectious, angular groove driving it. And herein lies the strength and joy of ‘The Rise and Fall of a Northern Dubstar’: there are some – plenty of – decent tunes which hold up independently, without the narrative or conceptual framework. An artistic triumph on every level.