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OCD EPs : #3 : GENE

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A GUEST POSTING FROM DAVE GLICKMAN

Back to the scene of the crime, at least insomuch as my first ever contribution to this blog was a Gene Imaginary Compilation Album.

As a quick reminder, the OCD EPs are intended to be short collections of the best or most interesting obscure, off the beaten track songs that only the most ardent and obsessed fans might be familiar with and have in their libraries. Been bitten by the “have to have everything they ever recorded” bug for your favorite band? If so, perhaps there is an OCD EP in your future.

In most cases, once the obsession to own everything takes hold, a long and arduous search ensues in the dark corners of the internet to find those hidden gems – a fan page here, an obscure video site there, an mp3 posted to a long since abandoned blog. However, in the case of Gene, no such effort is required. Instead, a gentleman by the name of Lewis Slade has already done all the work for you. Lewis’ site, “You’ll Never Walk Again,” is quite simply the go to source for all things Gene. Going on 12 years after their last gig, Lewis is still updating the site several times a year with new material. So, as it relates to the tracks shared below, you all now know who to thank.

Side One

1. Left Handed (demo)

On their debut LP Olympian, Left Handed is one of those loud-soft-loud numbers. However, it turns out that the early version of this song was a muscular tour de force from beginning to end. I much prefer it to the studio version.

For reference: Left Handed (album version)

2. Someone For Everyone (John Peel session 8 Dec 1999)

This is a Gene original from the 1999 John Peel Christmas show. As Martin says, “It’s something we dared not ever record. That will say a lot for it.” Actually, it is quite pleasant.

Side Two

3. Love Lives Here (The Faces cover) (John Peel session 27 Dec 1999)

Think of this as Gene’s version of The Smiths’ Rusholme Ruffians/(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame medley, only in reverse. Not only does the track say something about the band’s early influences, it further reinforces the greatness of one of their early B-sides (a single fat finger slip during the piano intro notwithstanding).

For reference: I Can’t Help Myself (Radio 1 Session 18 May 1994) – Actually, this song belongs in every post about Gene regardless of the topic.

(JC adds…………………….YUP!!!!!!)

4. Nice (“Let Me Rest” demo)

Let Me Rest is far from one of my favorites on Libertine. It just seems over-produced, the mix isn’t right and there’s oh so much of that grating organ sound. This demo version has none of those problems and the positive merits of the song really shine through. If not for a small skip in the recording at 2:55 (that presumably was not fixable), I am sure this would have been included on the deluxe edition re-release of the album in 2015.

For reference: Let Me Rest (album version)

DAVE

THE BAND’S MASTERPIECE – WITH BONUS COVER VERSION

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index
Around nine months ago, there was a very well-written and very well-received ICA contribution from Dave Glickmann. The band he looked at was Gene and in among his many fine words he said:-

Quite simply, Gene’s masterpiece – several band members not named Martin have called this the best song they wrote and I find no reason to disagree. If I were told I could only ever listen to one Gene song for the rest of my life, this would be the one.

He was referring to the song Where Are They Now? which had appeared on the album Drawn To The Deep End in February 1997.

mp3 : Gene – Where Are They Now?

It was a few weeks back that I spotted someone selling off CD1 of this particular single but given that I already had a copy from its inclusion on the ‘best of’ compilation I wasn’t that bothered about it….until I noticed that one of the two other tracks was a cover of a song I’m rather fond of…and I was intrigued to see how Gene had tackled it.

The song in question was Nightswimming, the piano ballad by R.E.M. and I was quite prepared for it to be a faithful interpretation that wouldn’t add all that much. But of course, Martin Rossiter is a quite different singer in style from Michael Stipe…..and his delivery together with the little acoustic guitar flourishes are more than enough to make this worth having:-

mp3 : Gene – Nightswimming

As for the third track, it’s one of those songs that I feel had a great deal of potential but that the band somehow hadn’t managed to nail down a finished version – should it be a ballad or should it rock out? In the end, thanks to a couple of tempo changes it does both but I can’t help thinking that they should have held onto it a bit longer and taken it one way or the other….

Dave however, has a quite different view and he felt it was more than worthy of inclusion in his splendid ICA:-

Whether intentional or not, Gene turned out to be quite a good B-side band. Almost everything on their first five singles ranged from solid to spectacular, which explains why the To See Lights compilation is a worthy listen. All Night has to be better than three quarters of the songs on Revelations. And, let’s not forget Drawn To The Deep End, the title track that wasn’t included on the album of the same name.

For me, however, the best of them all is Cast Out In The Seventies. If there really wasn’t any way to find a place for this on the second studio album, then surely it would have been a deserving non-album single. (Oh right, the press would have accused them of emulating The Smiths again!)

mp3 : Gene – Cast Out In The Seventies

Enjoy.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #15 – GENE

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Gene
Here’s another guest contribution, this time from the fingertips of Dave Glickman who very recently sent me a very kindly-worded e-mail:-

Hi JC,

Long time reader and very infrequent commenter from the states – specifically, the former British colony of Massachusetts Bay – who thought I might be able to contribute to your imaginary compilation series.

The Vinyl Villain, in both its incarnations, has had a profound influence in my reengagement with the indie music scene after many years focused on other things. You have helped both to fill in the gaps and introduce me to current music I would have otherwise missed. Of course, Mrs. G. may not be your biggest fan since she now has to spend her weekend mornings listening to The Sad or the FRabbits frustrated by the fact that she can’t understand what is being said, even though she is sure they are singing in English.

In any case, attached please find my attempt at an imaginary compilation of a band that you played a key role in introducing to me. I hope you find it of sufficient interest to include in the blog at some point.

Thanks for all your efforts over the years.

Regards,

DG

And quite honestly, I’m delighted that someone sees fit to include this lot in this series, so without any further delay here’s Dave’s superb in-depth take on things…….

 

I suppose it is important for me to come clean from the beginning and admit that I was totally unaware of Gene during their existence as an active band (1994-2004). In fact, there was quite a gap after the late 80’s where the demands of family and career filled up the time and headspace that had previously been used for activities like exploring new music. It is only in the last several years through a collection of B-sides posted on the Morrissey Solo site and JC’s own post on their early singles at the original blog that I was introduced to Gene’s music. Thanks to last year’s reissues of deluxe versions of their four studio albums plus compilation To See The Lights, experiencing their entire catalog along with many demos, radio sessions and live recordings is now quite easy.

Just a few notes before I get started …

Gene is generally considered to be a second-tier band from the Britpop era. While one can certainly debate the appropriateness of both elements of that classification, I’ll save those discussions for another day. Instead, I would just like to share my opinion that relative to some of the better known bands of that time, Gene’s music has often more gracefully stood the test of time. Hopefully, the compilation below will make that point – though, as always, YMMV.

It seems that, at the time, the biggest criticism of Gene was that they were just Smiths wannabes. Of course, fans, quite rightly, argued that musically, their sound was more influenced by bands like The Jam, than the jangle pop of the previous decade. While I completely agree with this, looking back now, I think it is easy to make the case that Martin Rossiter did have a soft spot for all things Moz. It can be seen in various ways through his vocal delivery, lyrical topics, approach to album art and his ambiguous discussion of sexuality in the media. And, that second album release, a compilation designed to counter criticism that their debut album didn’t faithfully capture their true sound? It could easily have been titled Hatful of Hollow 2.

All that said, I really don’t understand this as a point of criticism. Here is this band with really good songs that remind you in some ways of (one of) the best band(s) ever in the history of the planet. Ok – so why is this a bad thing?

JC and others have pointed out the difficulties in putting together these compilations. If only it were as simple as making a playlist of your ten favorite songs. But then you start asking yourself questions like: 1) does this constitute a coherent album, 2) is this representative of the bands overall sound and 3) how musically diverse/consistent is the whole? When creating this compilation, I encountered two challenges. First, too many of my favorite songs were slow ballads and this had the potential to create a bit of a plodding record that wasn’t fully indicative of the band’s sound. Second, with their fourth album, Libertine, Gene made a fairly radical shift in their sound, musical composition and structure. While I am actually quite fond of that LP, I found it difficult to include these songs while maintaining some sense of consistency across the compilation. In any case, here is where I ended up – not necessarily my top ten songs, but hopefully something that works well.

Side A

1. You’ll Never Walk Again (from “the difficult third album” Revelations, released in March 1999)

With a lack of resources and limited label support, Gene were really up against it in creating the follow-up to the masterful Drawn To The Deep End. While the record includes several good songs, for me, it just fails miserably as an overall product – too many songs of uneven quality, a messed up running order, some of the better tunes relegated to B-sides, and don’t even get me started on the cover art.

Perhaps the most egregious error was putting one of the best songs they ever wrote all the way at the end of the album. How many people had the patience to sit through the first 46 minutes just to get there? My impression is that the band quickly recognized the error of their ways as You’ll Never Walk Again was often the first song played at live shows of the era.

For me, it belongs as an opener as well. There’s just something about the line “make love, with love, my love” that gets me every time.

2. Be My Light, Be My Guide (single, released in August 1994)

A song that is probably in many fans’ top ten, though it fell just short in mine. However, when looking for opportunities to add a bit of muscle to the compilation, I recalled that Matt James once said that had this song (along with a couple of the other earlier tracks) been added to Olympian, it would have created a debut album much more representative of their overall sound. It does the same thing here.

As a result, I am now prepared to declare the first rule of Gene Club: “All Gene playlists are improved by the inclusion of Be My Light, Be My Guide.”

3. Where Are They Now? (from the album Drawn To The Deep End, released in February 1997)

Quite simply, Gene’s masterpiece – several band members not named Martin have called this the best song they wrote and I find no reason to disagree. If I were told I could only ever listen to one Gene song for the rest of my life, this would be the one.

4. I Can’t Help Myself (Radio 1 Session, 18 May 1994) (from the album To See The Lights, released January 1996)

I know that this version of this song ranks highly on JC’s list since he has written about it more than once. Rather than repeat everything he has said before, I’ll just provide the cliff notes.

Originally a B-side on the Be My Light, Be My Guide single, this striped down, piano only version takes the song from good to transcendent.

5. London, Can You Wait? (from the album Olympian, released in March 1995)

As a New, rather than Old, Englander I haven’t the slightest idea what “kith” are. I do know that the lines “I was having the time of my life. So why did you have to die? I’m lost again” make me sad.

Side B

1. Cast Out In The Seventies (B-side from the Where Are They Now? single, released in April 1997)

Whether intentional or not, Gene turned out to be quite a good B-side band. Almost everything on their first five singles ranged from solid to spectacular, which explains why the To See Lights compilation is a worthy listen. All Night has to be better than three quarters of the songs on Revelations. And, let’s not forget Drawn To The Deep End, the title track that wasn’t included on the album of the same name.

For me, however, the best of them all is Cast Out In The Seventies. If there really wasn’t any way to find a place for this on the second studio album, then surely it would have been a deserving non-album single. (Oh right, the press would have accused them of emulating The Smiths again!)

2. Olympian (single version) (from the Olympian EP, released July 1995)

The last three-fifths of the title track of Gene’s debut album are pure bliss. Just a three line chorus repeated over and over again with one of my favorite of Martin’s lines – “For I can only be normal with you.” I’m not exactly sure why it works so well, but had they extended the repetition out to 10 minutes, I would still be fine with it. My only complaint is that it takes two minutes to get there. There is really nothing wrong with the beginning of the song, I guess I’m just very impatient.

I’ve chosen the single version because, in addition to a nicer intro, it reaches the chorus about 10 seconds earlier than the album track.

3. Rising For Sunset (Troubadour, Los Angeles, 1 Jun 2000) (from the album Rising For Sunset, released August 2000)

From the wiki:

“Despite the lack of the support of a major record label, Gene spent a good portion of 2000 touring the world, which climaxed in a sell-out tour of the USA. One of their shows, at the Los Angeles venue Troubadour, was broadcast over the internet in what was then a record-breaking webcast, screened to at least 60,000 people worldwide. Only two months after the recording of that show, Gene released Rising for Sunset, a live album recorded from that Troubadour show…. As well as rehearsing the band’s hits, they released two new tracks, ‘Rising For Sunset’ and ‘Somewhere in the World’; promising songs that bade well for their next studio LP…”

Interestingly, while Somewhere in the World did show up on Libertine, Rising For Sunset did not. With the release of the deluxe edition of that album in 2014, we found out why. While the boys had, in fact, completed a studio version of the track, it simply paled in comparison to this live version. You might want to think of this as Gene’s Jack The Ripper.

4. Save Me, I’m Yours (from the album Drawn To The Deep End, released in February 1997)

I could have made this exercise a whole lot easier by recommending that you put Gene’s second album, Drawn To The Deep End, on shuffle and just listen to the first ten songs that come up. There are so many good choices I could have included here – Fighting Fit, We Could Be Kings, Speak To Me Someone, Long Sleeves For The Summer, just to name a few. But I’ve decided to go with this beautiful lullaby.

As Martin once said, “Sing this song to your children.”

5. For The Dead (original version) (single, released in April 1994)

What better place to end then where the journey began – Gene’s debut single, in its original version, before the record label had a go at making it more “radio friendly.” For me, this is exhibit #1 in the case for how well the band’s songs have aged, just a great piece of indie music, regardless of the decade.

Hidden Track

1. Skin Parade (from the deluxe edition of the album Libertine, released in February 2014)

Gene were not above using the old hidden track trick on occasion. I’m hoping you might indulge me the same, so I can make partial amends for largely ignoring the last few years of their career above.

Of all the deluxe edition reissues released in 2014, Libertine is the one most worthy of your hard earned money. In addition to the original album and all the singles and B-sides from the period, it also includes 13 demos and previously unreleased studio tracks. To my ears, Skin Parade is the best of the unreleased material – an observation on the (peculiar, to us Puritans over here) practice at the time of publishing pictures of naked women in the British tabloid press, closing out with another fine guitar solo from Steve Mason. It’s an indication that Gene moved on with something still left in the tank.

DG

mp3 : Gene – You’ll Never Walk Again
mp3 : Gene – Be My Light, Be My Guide
mp3 : Gene – Where Are They Now?
mp3 : Gene – I Can’t Help Myself (radio session)
mp3 : Gene – London, Can You Wait?
mp3 : Gene – Cast Out In The Seventies
mp3 : Gene – Olympian
mp3 : Gene – Rising For Sunset (live at the Troubador)
mp3 : Gene – Save Me, I’m Yours
mp3 : Gene – For The Dead

mp3 : Gene – Skin Parade

Anyone else who feels like contributing to the Imaginary Album slot, then feel free to drop and e-mail at anytime.

JC

YET ANOTHER WEEK OF REPEAT POSTS : I CAN’T HELP MYSELF

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R-1697386-1322450596

(Originally posted on the old blog on 24 May 2013)

I’ve a fair few CD singles and a couple of albums released by Gene during their existence, but they were a never a band which grabbed my undivided attention at any time.

For a short time they were hailed as the next great thing by a fair chunk of the UK music press and this is what made me a little wary. But on reflection, I’m more than happy to acknowledge that they released some cracking songs in their time, many of which have aged way better than many of the better known songs by their better known peers from the Britpop era in the late 90s.

If you’re not familiar with too much of their material, it’s well worth picking up the 2001 ‘best of’ compilation As Good As It Gets (released by the major label that they had not long departed from) which brings together most of the 45s and some of their most popular tunes.

You can find on said compilation two of the three tracks I’ve picked out for today.  They were originally part of the band’s second ever single,  released in August 1994, and which made #54 in the UK singles charts.  The last of the flops in some ways as the next ten singles would all make the Top 40.

mp3 : Gene – Be My Light, Be My Guide
mp3 : Gene – This Is Not My Crime
mp3 : Gene – I Can’t Help Myself

It’s the latter of the two b-sides which is included in the ‘best of’ compilation and when you give it a listen, it’s no real surprise. It really is a song wasted as a b-side as it was more than strong enough to be a single release in its own right, but Gene were always a band, similar to The Smiths and Suede, who wanted to make each single something a bit special and so would ensure the b-sides were all killer and no filler.

But as much as I love the original version of I Can’t Help Myself, it can’t hold a candle to a later version recorded for BBC Radio 1 and which came to my attention thanks to its inclusion on a free cassette given away with a monthly music magazine. It would later feature on the 1996 release To See The Lights which consisted of rarities, live tracks and acoustic versions of singles:-

mp3 : Gene – I Can’t Help Myself (Radio 1 Session)

Absolutely gorgeous.