Ah, those damned record companies. Always trying to make a buck on the deceased . . . and the non-deceased as well.
Polydor Records dumped Britpop band Gene after the under-whelming performance of their third full-length Revelations. But the band is not dead and buried, despite what the title of this singles, B-sides and album cuts compilation may lead you to believe. The band is actually putting the finishing touches on their latest record, a release on their own label. In doing so, they seem to be following in the footsteps of former Britpop compadres Echobelly, another smart, dashing group that has been hired and fired by the majors. But to Gene’s former bosses, this compilation is a nicely presented, pretty funeral wreath, whether or not that band decides to march on.
Emerging in the early ‘90s dawn of Britpop, Gene were second tier players, watching the battle of Oasis and Blur rage on as they stood ready to grab the baton from whoever dropped it first. The seven tracks here from their 1995 debut Olympian have a decidedly Smiths-ian claustrophobic sound and fury about them. Yet when the band hits the right notes, on “Haunted By You” and the epic “Olympian”, they come very close to being Morrissey’s worthiest successors.
On the band’s second full-length, 1997’s Drawn to the Deep End, they try to shake the inevitable Morrissey-Marr comparisons by reaching out to other musical touchstones such as The Small Faces, Elvis Costello and The Jam (a band Gene has covered twice on record).
Despite attempts at an American push, the band became another casualty in the long line of UK acts that failed to make a dent in the US. Few of the singles were released as such in America and they were let go by their unforgiving Yankee label.
The orchestral, polished sounds of Drawn to the Deep End, all failed relationships (“Speak to Me Someone”) and blustery anthems (“Fighting Fit”, “We Could Be Kings”), weighed heavy on the band’s scrappy joie de vivre.
Revelations, the following 1999 release, represented here by two singles (the bouncy “As Good As It Gets” and the Suede-esque “Fill Her Up”), showed a rawer portrait of a band more interested that time around in being political and social commentators, as opposed to solely personal essayists. It seems Gene frontman, the charismatic Martin Rossitter, wanted his band to be the ‘90s answer to The Jam and he as its Paul Weller figure.
Too bad Gene’s best moments are not its political rallying cries but its odes to the hopeless romantic lamentations of unrequited love. “You’ll Never Walk Again” and “Be My Light, Be My Guide” are shining examples of that. No one with the lyrical wit of Rossitter should be allowed to escape his duties as a broken-hearted poet of modern London.