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Gene
Libertine
iMusic / Artist Direct / BMG


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 Libertine.

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.

Tyler Jacobson

Track Listing:

  1. Let Me Move On
  2. Does He Have A Name?
  3. A Simple Request
  4. Yours For The Taking
  5. Is It Over?
  6. O Lover
  7. With Love In Mind
  8. Let Me Rest
  9. From Georgia To Osaka
  10. We'll Get What We Deserve
  11. Walking In The Shallows
  12. You
  13. Spy In The Clubs
  14. Somewhere In The World
  15. (hidden track) Who Said This Was the End

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