Gene released some of the most heart wrenching works
of the '90s. Starting with their debut, Olympian, Gene
ripped some pages out of the mope-rock handbook, added some
balls to the music and some genuine feeling to the lyrics.
Labeled by the press (yeah, I’m guilty) as being close cousins
to the Smiths musically, Gene paid tribute to their
apparent influences without pandering to the genre or it’s
fans. What made Olympian, and the following effort,
Drawn To The Deep End, so great was that they were sincere,
talented and didn’t seem to give a fuck if you thought that
they sounded like anyone else.
Seemingly, Gene should’ve garnered far more fans and attention
than they did. Like most critically praised bands, Gene never
quite gained the audience they deserved. A small, albeit pronounced,
fan base existed, but it wasn’t enough to see a domestic release
of Gene’s third studio release, Revelations. Now, after
a 5-year gap since a studio album has been released state-side,
Gene is back with Libertine.
My first reaction to this 15-track album
was that Gene had decided to move more toward a AAA format-friendly
collection. With the lead track, “Let Me Move On”, all of
the elements of Gene’s past efforts are there. Great melody,
strong chorus and compelling lyrics, but something seemed
to be missing. Namely, Gene no longer sounds like the Smiths.
This caught me off guard a little. While Gene has still retained
the original components of their sound, the song writing has
stopped relying on some of the clichés that Gene had helped
to promote. Instead of throwing out a flurry of guitar hooks
and sing song choruses, the sound now relies on a keener ear
and repeated listenings. Rather than being able to reference
Morrissey/Marr compositions, it’s now necessary
to completely re-evaluate Gene’s music to accurately assess
While Gene has seemingly come into their own, they’ve lost
some of the aforementioned balls in the songwriting. Libertine
is a more relaxed and refined collection of songs. Even in
their darkest moments, such as “A Simple Request” or “Is It
Over?”, the music is gentle and persuading, rather than depressing.
The differences from what would be considered their past
attitudes toward their sound is easily forgivable when taken
in context. The songs flow together seamlessly, making Libertine
feel more like a 65-minute piece with different movements,
as opposed to a collection of assorted tracks, where one song
takes precedence over another. Despite their respective paces
or themes, up tempo songs like “Yours For The Taking” and
the dub based “Let Me Rest” melt into lounge-esque songs like
“From Georgia To Osaka” and “With Love in Mind”. Before you
realize it, you’re already halfway through the album.
Wisely, one of the best tracks on the album is hidden with
minutes of silence preceding it. “Who Said This Was The End”
is solid and reminiscent of the old Gene, but it’s feel is
different than that of the rest of Libertine. “What
Said…” is a straight forward sentimental and minimalist tune.
For all of the consistency of the rest of Libertine,
this is the one track that aims directly for the heart, meets
it’s mark and envelopes like nothing else on the album.
All said, Libertine is complicated and easy, all in
one. It gets better with every listen, which is what great
albums do. It may not be the most passionate or easily accessible
of Gene’s efforts, but with time it grows on you and it’s
brilliance becomes more and more apparent. While I doubt that
this album will suddenly launch Gene into that exclusive plane
of becoming a household name, it’s sure to expand their reach
beyond their current cluster of listeners while keeping those
fans happy as well.
- Let Me Move On
- Does He Have A Name?
- A Simple Request
- Yours For The Taking
- Is It Over?
- O Lover
- With Love In Mind
- Let Me Rest
- From Georgia To Osaka
- We'll Get What We Deserve
- Walking In The Shallows
- Spy In The Clubs
- Somewhere In The World
- (hidden track) Who Said This Was the End
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