Gene

TrackAlbum
Speak To Me SomeoneDrawn To The Deep End
Where Are They Now?Drawn To The Deep End
Fighting FitDrawn To The Deep End
OlympianOlympian
London, Can You Wait? Olympian
As Good As It GetsRevelations
MaydayRevelations
Fill Her UpRevelations
Does He Have A Name?Libertine
Is It Over?Libertine

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Gene photo

Gene (l to r): Martin Rossiter (vocals), Kevin Miles (bass), Steve Mason (guitar), Matt James (drums)

 

Contributor: Richard Warran

Listening to the first three tracks on Gene’s Rising For Sunset, recorded at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles in the summer of 2000, you realise what a truly great live band they really were: Steve Mason’s gentle guitar intro to Does He Have A Name?, then a slow almost football style chant follows, Matt James pounding almost tribal drums come in, followed then by Martin Rossiter’s vocals. Then Fill Her Up and The British Disease – the first tracks on Rising For Sunset are genuinely anthemic and set the tone for the rest of this blistering live set recorded when the band were right at the top of their game.

Fast forward to 16th December 2004, the Astoria in London, the band’s final gig. As they came to the end of their set, Martin Rossiter sat down in front of the bass drum and tippexed the E to an O on the band’s logo, and that was that, Gene were Gone. A fitting tribute. This was the last time they played together live apart from reforming to play a few songs for their ex manager’s 50th birthday party a few years later. The gig felt like a celebratory funeral wake, for those of us there. I felt high from the music but desperately sad that this was probably the last time Gene would play live again. Rumours have circulated about a possible reunion over the years but I’m glad they have always resisted the temptation, and we as fans are left with a legacy of four great studio albums, a live DVD recorded at Sheffield’s Leadmill and the Rising For Sunset CD, plus a couple of compilation albums and a dozen or so singles.

I’ve seen an awful lot of live music over the last 30 years but still, for me, no other band I have seen can quite match Gene for the sheer joy of of being at a gig, knowing the words and singing along to every song. I think I saw them at least 25 times over the course of their career, and often thought about what it was that sets them apart from all the other music I love and listen to. They had that indefinable extra something, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why I loved and continue to love their music. But that’s what great about music and why you should listen to my top 10 Gene songs.

Often described in the press as Smiths copyists, being lumped together with other post Britpop bands like Sleeper and Shed Seven and the like perhaps didn’t help their cause either. They were far better than that and should have been much bigger and more commercially successful than they were. Gene probably peaked in terms of commercial success when they sold out the Royal Albert Hall in March 1997, a gig that was broadcast live on Radio 1.

After that it was a slow decline, at least in terms of album sales, and they released their last one, Libertine, in 2001. Not a great commercial success but critically well received and still a great album. Just listen to the opening track, Does He Have A Name?, perhaps the finest song ever written about domestic abuse.

The inevitable split came in 2004. Martin Rossiter has since released an absolutely brilliant solo album, The Defenestration Of St Martin, and continues to make music and teaches the next generation of wannabe musicians at a music college in Brighton. The whereabouts of the other ex band members is a bit more sketchy. Matt James buys and sells wine in North London, manages bands and occasionally drums in Skin Côntact, Kevin Miles teaches in Lincolnshire, and Steve Mason I’m not sure about – last saw him playing guitar with short-lived, but great, London band Palace Fires.

I still think Gene’s music sounds as fresh and relevant today as it did when released back in the 90s. Take a listen to my Toppermost top 10 and see what you think.

 

TEN ESSENTIAL GENE SONGS

London, Can You Wait and Olympian from the debut album of the same name, Olympian (1995).

Speak To Me Someone, Where Are They Now?, Fighting Fit from the second studio album Drawn To The Deep End (1997).

From Revelations (1999), As Good As It Gets, Mayday, Fill Her Up.

And two from the final album, Libertine (2001), Does He Have A Name? and Is It Over?.

 

 

Gene on Facebook

You’ll Never Walk Again: “A really good all things Gene website” (RW)

Interview with Gene (Martin Rossiter & Steve Mason) on YT

Gene: John Peel sessions

Martin Rossiter on Bandcamp

Gene biography (iTunes)

Richard Warran lives in Haywards Heath, famed for being a rather dull but close to Brighton and London commuter town. He has a passion for music and travel sometimes combining the two and can often be found at gigs in the above two cities. Find him on Twitter @rickwarran1.

TopperPost #561

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