Friday, September 17, 2010

Gene Loves Jezebel – Promise (Situation Two, 1983)

I first encountered Gene Loves Jezebel in 1990 when they were performing their very MTV-friendly “Jealous”, so it was quite the little mind-fuck to discover a few years later that back in the day they’d been a band right at the cutting edge of early Goth.

Formed by the identical twin Aston brothers Jay and Michael, the band began in 1980, and released their first single, the individualistic and aggressive “Shaving My Neck” (1982) now readily available on the compilation Gothic Rock (Jungle, 1992).

The first full length album Promise and its accompanying singles “Bruises”, “Screaming for Emmalene” and “Influenza” followed, with bass provided by Julianne Regan who would depart soon after to form All About Eve. Although interspersed with intervals of slow & desolate introspection, for the most part this little beast of an album fair gallops along with catchy alternative pop sensibilities all the while exuding a miasma of bleak neuroticism. If there seems to be a certain recycling of musical ideas throughout the album, it matters little since those recycled ideas are very good ones indeed. Standout tracks include “Bruises”, “Pop Tarantula”, “Screaming for Emmalene” and “Psychological Problems”. 

By 1985, the band would go on to do the very Cultesque “Desire”, which sadly would become the song they would be remembered for, the live video leaning drunkenly towards the pop-metal fad of the day, the band displaying a far more glam look and musically baring absolutely no resemblance to their early years. The increasingly commercial directions Gene Loves Jezebel was taking evidently did not please Michael, and the brothers terminated their musical partnership in 1989.

Gene Loves Jezebel shambles onward to this day as two distinct entities, each controlled by the respective Ashton brothers. However, the likelihood of either outfit ever again recording anything remotely like the left-field brilliance displayed on Promise seems an unlikely proposition indeed.

Bruises: An indisputably brilliant song and an indisputably awful video clip - oh well.

Track List:
  1. Upstairs
  2. Bruises
  3. Pop Tarantula
  4. Screaming for Emmalene
  5. Scheming
  6. Bread From Heaven
  7. Influenza
  8. Shower me with bristle punches
  9. Wraps and Arms
  10. Psychological Problems
The 2005 CD re-release through Beggars Banquet contains an entire second disc of bonus tracks.

Line up: Michael Ashton (vocals), Jay Aston (guitar, backing vocals), Ian C. Hudson (guitar), Julianne Regan (bass, piano, backing vocals), with drums and percussion provided by Steve Goulding, Richard Hawkins, and John “Johnny Genius “Murphy.

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