Album Review: Dub Inc – So What
Self-produced album, world tour, awards, self-produced album, world tour, awards – French reggae superstars Dub Inc have settled into a busy routine. Having shaped their distinct trademark sound early in their career that spans two decades next year, today they’re more successful than ever.
Dub Inc functions as a collective, with every member having an equal say in the band’s decisions. Being fully independent from major labels and their curtailment of artistic freedom goes a long way in explaining the band’s ongoing success. Dub Inc’s casting has been surprisingly stable over the years.
Another factor is the humbleness and closeness of the band with their fans around the globe. Despite their heavy touring, Dub Inc don’t shut themselves off backstage. They’re surprisingly easy to run into frontstage on festivals they play at, and their interactions with fans seem genuine, sincere, honest, and fueled by mutual respect. Another major factor to the success of the band from St. Étienne are the topics it deals with. Denouncing imperialism, wars, violence, environmental pollution, injustice, racism, intolerance and narrow-mindedness, Dub Inc has always been very close to the actualities of its fans in France and elsewhere.
So What, the band’s sixth studio album, is no exception. The terrorist attacks in France, a never-ending state of emergency, anti-muslim and racist discourses in French mainstream media, and the upcoming presidential election that looks as if it would offer the choice between semi-fascists and an outright fascist pig set the prevailing mood. So What is Dub Inc’s most defensive album to date, the last straw a drowning man would catch in a vast ocean of hopelessness. While French is still the band’s top choice to pen their lyrics in, Kabyle and especially English get more space than they used to on past albums.
An uplifting album it is, indeed. Amidst this situation that silences most of us, while others explode in hatred, Bouchkour and Komlan find sensible, reasonable, nuanced words that remind us that not all is lost, that not everyone has lost their mind. “Ils se nourrissent de nos peurs,” sings Bouchkour in Comme de l’Or, they’re feeding on our fear, and the only answer to them that makes sense is one fueled by the self-assured confidence of those that have experienced love in their life. Impudent, mendacious law and order policy only serves to reinforce the vicious circle of violence and hatred. “Ensemble nous sommes/ensembles nous rêvons/de jours meilleurs pour tous nos frères”: Together we are, together we dream of better days for all our brothers.
It’s a Triste Époque indeed, and it can’t hurt to reassure yourself of your own ethics and values to avoid the Erreurs du Passé (mistakes of the past). Dub Inc’s values are inherently different from those right-wing politicians and mainstream media adhere to. It's No Matter Where You Come From instead of untenable cultural essentialism, and universal Love Is The Meaning instead of blind hatred. There’ll be no social progress though without Justice, they remind us together with Italian singer Mellow Mood, and French reggae shooting star Naâman is on board to tell us to fight back instead of victimizing ourselves.
Dub Inc produced So What without outside assistance, as always. This time they recorded in their own revamped studio at home in St. Étienne. From the first to the last track, the band polished its trademark sound to shiny perfection. On So What, Dub Inc at the same time sounds more modern and traditional than ever.
In the end, Dub Inc somehow manages to answer the question that is both the title and the thread of this album. That alone shows the ingenuity and maturity of these French reggae seniors. Don’t miss them on their next world tour.
Dub Inc - So What
DIGITAL RELEASE [Diversité]
Release date: 09/23/2016
01. Grand périple
03. So What
04. No Matter Where You Come From
05. Triste époque
06. Love Is the Meaning
07. Don't Be a Victim feat. Naâman
08. Maché bécif
09. Justice feat. Mellow Mood
10. Comme de l'or
12. Ragga Bizness
13. Rise Up
14. Erreurs du passé