SUBJECT:2 – Love Betrayal Deceit

Synth-pop pleasures…

An electronic act with a genuine Basildon heritage, Subject: 2 is a synth-pop duo that draws influence from the likes of Yazoo and Erasure. Consisting of Gary Starky and Sandra Tully, the pair also did a star turn at 2019’s Synthetic City event (see TEC review previously) where their energetic pop tunes won over new fans.

The Subject:2 duo originally met through friends at university, finding common ground with their music tastes which swiftly led to a creative collaboration. The musical project that Subject:2 became had started out in 1991 as a trio under the title Subject To Scandal. Although there was some record label interest at the time, nothing came together and their initial plans fizzled out.

A lengthy musical hiatus followed as a result. In the interim, Gary Starky collaborated with Robert Marlow (keeping that Basildon connection alive), including some live outings under the banner of Marlow & Starky. But in 2016, Starky revived his partnership with Sandra Tully under the new title of Subject:2.

Both Starky and Tully acknowledged that they had a musical chemistry together, which made the reunion all the more apt. Plus, they had a lot of fun working together which sealed the deal. Their 2018 debut album Forward/Return showcased Subject: 2’s particular synth-pop sound. This included the melodic ‘Run Away’, the kinetic ‘Rubber Made’, the more intimate ‘The Day You Cried’ and even an unsual low-key take on ‘70s disco classic ‘Feels Like I’m In Love’.

Like many musical outfits, Subject:2, have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis this year. A planned appearance at an Electro-Shock-Records event in Neubrandenburg in April had to be cancelled. As with many live acts, Subject:2’s music really sparks in a live environment, so this blow must have had a particular impact on the duo’s spirit.

Love Betrayal Deceit offers up plenty of bubbly synth-pop, although its perhaps more intimate than its predecessor. Unsurprisingly, it’s an album that does indeed delve into the three themes illustrated in the album’s title, which gives the various songs an emotional punch.

Opening track ‘The Subject Is 2’ is a raw, quirky affair (originally conceived as an intro for their live shows). It’s a curio for the album as it takes a very different direction than the other tracks, but serves as an intriguing number for setting the scene.

‘These Things’ has some very satisfying bassy synth rhythms going on as a song that just bursts with sweet electropop. As a composition, it originally began as a potential track for the Forward/Return album, but the duo felt that they couldn’t quite get it to work at the time.

Meanwhile, ‘Is It You…’ delivers a wonderfully warm vocal from Sandra Tully on a slow pop gem peppered with some wistful melodica moments.

‘Blue Door’ is a track that’s been part of the Subject:2 live set for some time, a title which apparently served as this album’s original title (as the pair revealed in a recent Artefaktor Radio interview). It’s a sultry, sleazy-themed number whose fizzy pop wears its influences on its sleeve. It’s also a song where Starky is clearly enjoying himself, delivering lines such as “Pleasures for you, just you wait/there’s a different flavour on every floor” with particular relish.

The moody ‘When I See You Tonight’ (which is another of the duo’s older compositions) offers up a vocal duet between Starky and Tully on a song exploring the duality of modern love. It’s a perfect opportunity to utilise the contrast between the pair’s different vocal styles, with Tully’s breathy voice measured against Starky’s more direct tones.

Described as a celebration of love, ‘All Of The World’ is initially a simpler affair which relies on the breathy vocals to carry the song. But it picks up a more robust percussive drive as it barrels along, resulting in one of the album’s most dynamic efforts.

There’s a starker feel to the mid-tempo ‘Come Back To Me’ which, despite its raw arrangements, comes across as a more sedate affair, Starky’s bare vocal giving the composition a strangely compelling fragility (“Are there shadows tracing you/That stop your inner light from breaking through”).

But Love Betrayal Deceit cranks back up with the sharper edges of the brasher ‘No One’, which is a purely indulgent slice of synth-pop that fizzes and buzzes with electronic goodness.

“Nobody’s There’, which is one of the album’s clear highlights, is a bittersweet composition with some engaging synth elements. Tully’s emotive vocal delivery really sells the song, which apparently has a very real story behind it.

In an interview, Tully explained how the song came from “a very painful experience” which led to a simple decision on who would take the vocal lead. “We both agreed that it was mainly part of my life, it was only right that I sang the main role to express the real, dark meaning of the lyrics from the heart.”

Love Betrayal Deceit is an album that embraces a talent for classic synth-pop that also keeps things human and relatable. It bounces between perky pop and softer, warmer moments which keeps both the ear and the heart engaged.

Love Betrayal Deceit is out 26th June 2020 on Electro-Shock-Records:—love-betrayal-deceit/?