REVIEW album Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Gene - Give me something I can hold: Graceful songsmiths re-release back catalogue

Old Subbacultcha

Old Subbacultcha

When it was first released Gene’s ‘Olympian,’ resonated deeply with me. It seemed to bond The Smiths to Britpop for those looking for that unbroken connection.


Deluxe Editions: ‘Olympian’/'To See the Lights’/'Drawn To the Deep End’/'Revelations’/'Libertine’ (Edsel Records)

When it was first released Gene’s ‘Olympian,’ resonated deeply with me. It seemed to bond The Smiths to Britpop for those looking for that unbroken connection. ‘Sleep well tonight, tomorrow we fight,’ they declared, like a call to arms for graceful literate analogies and beautiful melodies. Formed in 1993 by singer Martin Rossiter, guitarist Steve Mason, bassist Kevin Miles and drummer Matt James, they took their influences from The Jam and The Faces and should perhaps be filed with another much loved band from that era, The Bluetones. Both achieved cult success and much love from the indie community without gaining the mainstream recognition that they deserved.
Now Edsel Records release Deluxe 2CD Editions of ‘Olympian’, ‘To See the Lights’ ‘Revelations’, ‘Drawn to the Deep End’ and ‘Libertine’. They all contain extras including demos, out-takes, radio versions and sessions live tracks and acoustic versions offering listeners a chance to delve deeper into Gene’s back catalogue. Much has been made of their aforementioned debut album released in 1995, encompassing their early singles. Many of these are reprised on their 1996 ‘Hatful of Hollow,’  ‘To See the Lights.’ With 37 tracks worth of material including two covers: I Say A Little Prayer from Glastonbury and Lennon/McCartney‘s ‘Don’t Let Me Down.’ But a special mention for the stalwarts; Descriptive drunken nights in Sleep Well Tonight with trouble that comes from the pubs and the clubs. ‘A Car that Sped,’ - ‘You have to do it on your own. I can’t aid you anymore. And you must learn to breathe alone and all this is yours,’ warbles Rossiter charmingly. The doubtful and thought provoking ‘For the Dead,’ - ‘With every wind I hear you sing "You will be fine." With every note stuck in your throat. "This is your time."’ In ‘Her fifteen years.’ So take your children’s hearts, and lay them on the line, for without my care they are lost.’ Achingly simple and haunting with descending guitar lines that would make you cry. The mournful ballad ‘London Can You Wait,’ complements Olympian, ‘Formidable and not afraid of the next world.’ A rollicking version of ‘Haunted by You,’ gives the album pace. From the addiction tale ‘Sick, Sober & Sorry,’ come the words ‘At the Tower of London. I swear I heard you cry "For one taste of a good man, I would die."’ Although the compilation album lacks cohesion it is a great partner to the debut. Romance, passion, loneliness that sometimes strays into formidable death poetry made exquisite in sound. After the lavish string led second studio album ‘Drawn to the Deep End’ came Revelations which found them steering towards politics and a more boisterous sound. The self-released album ‘Libertine,’ came in 2001. It saw them in a more relaxed vein with sweeping piano ballads. As usual the form is buoyant harmonies with despairing words. Another 33 tracks on this re-release including numerous unreleased demos and bonus tracks aside the original album. Starting with the the seven-minute tale of betrayal 'Does He Have a Name?' Muffled vocals and errant vibrating guitar solos attend ‘A Simple Request’, which asks ‘Tell me when life will start happening for me.’ The mournful ‘Is It Over’ (see ‘I Know it’s Over’) is a heartbreaking soulful piece which ascends into a rousing chorus.  Strings and crunchy keys collide. ‘O Lover.’ is upbeat and breezy considering its narrative of domestic violence. 'We'll Get What We Deserve' brings kettle drums and a reggae sensibility to the table. While ‘Walking in the Shadows,’ a narrative of self-doubt is oddly cheerful. ‘Spy in the Clubs’ is a one to grow to love: a worry bead of a song.’ Honey bee, don’t go out alone. I know men, they want your skin.’ Somewhere in the World,’ provides a fitting outro. The new Libertine is a lamenting piece although perhaps overly long. Gene ensured a dignified end to their decade long career and these albums are a testament to this. If you have even a passing interest in this band you will find much treasure in this chest, graceful songwriting for sensitive souls. 9/10