Download, Let Me Move On and look for Libertine, the new album from Gene, out now!
Steve Mason, as ridiculously handsome as ever, ponders the question, "Why did we start this band?" He strokes his chin and says, straight faced, "Of course it was to shag lots of women and make millions of dollars." Matt James pipes up, "And boy have we failed."
Ah, gallows humour. Gene have always been fond of sending themselves up but, having been dropped by a stupidly shortsighted major label, there's an edge to their tomfoolery.
Following last years excellent Rising For Sunset - Live At The Troubadour, the second album on their own label Contra, Libertine is with us. It's a big test. Sure they've a phenomenally devoted fan base, and live, Gene is one of Britain's best bands, but this album really needed to show they were still on their mettle. And they are, and how.
Libertine is their finest record since their debut Olympian. It's going to shatter preconceptions, as I discovered when playing the record at home. First single, “Is It Over?” was playing when a friend walked into the room having heard the song from another room. "Shit, this is fantastic," she said. "Is this the new Pulp single? Blimey they're back on form." "Nope", I smiled "It's Gene." The look of sheer astonishment on her face was a joy to behold.
Certainly, “Is It Over?” is a fabulous, melodramatic anthem, all swooping dynamics and tension-building keyboards - a cast iron classic song. But there's more where that came from. “O Lover” is a lush, soulful but cold-eyed look at domestic violence - to say that it would sit proudly on Marvin Gaye's flawless “Here, My Dear” is no exaggeration. It also has a tune that is almost impossible to shift from your head. And “Somewhere In The World” is a 21st Century Motown fizz with Martin Rossiter's voice displaying a remarkable versatility, as it takes flight to falsetto registers before flashing down the scales to warm, chocolaty croon. Libertine is not the sound of a band trying to recapture old glories or a tired last-ditch attempt for commercial paydirt. It's a vibrant, sparkling album that forges ahead looking for new territories to conquer.
Martin suggests that they wanted to make a seamlessly gorgeous record. "It was important that the album flowed and wasn't just a shabby little hostel for three or four shiny radio friendly singles surrounded by a horde of grubby flea-ridden fillers."
And what does Mr Rossiter expect of the album? "I still go to bed and dream it's going to go straight to Number One,” he grins, "but seriously I think it's going to be a word-of-mouth phenomenon. People will whisper news of its glory to their friends who will buy it and then thank their mate for the rest of their lives for introducing them to this magnificence."
Martin pauses, gazing into the middle distance; I feel some gallows humor approaching stealthily.
"I think Libertine will change a lot of people's opinions of Gene." He grins wolfishly. "But hopefully not our fans'." No chance Martin. This is just the beginning of a new chapter. Gene is back.
- Paul Connolly, The London Times
Martin Rossiter - Vocals, Keyboards
Steve Mason - Guitar
Kevin Miles - Bass
Matt James - Drums