Can it really be 20 years already? 20 years since Gene rose to promenence, with "For The Dead", and 10 since they quietly disappeared, mourned by a handful, and forgotten by many? At one point they could have been kings. Now, overlooked and ignored by Megador Records, the band have quietly faded from view to day jobs and memories. In time, the bands work - an elegant body that combined the majesty of The Smiths with the muscular strength of The Faces and 60's era Mod bands, has aged with dignity and power. Over four albums, and catch all b-sides compilation "To See The Lights", the band explored humanity with increasing effectiveness and skill. By the time they got to the final record, the barely noticed "Libertine" they had become brilliant but niche hasbeens. This reissue series finally gives the band the dignity they deserve, with expanded editions of each record, appended with every b-side, an enormity of radio sessions (almost every single one the band recorded for the BBC,), and several live shows from the period, showcasing embryonic and early versions of many songs from subsequent albums - are a fascinating insight. In terms of unreleased material, there is little until the time the band were released from their Polydor contract, at which point the band had control of their own recordings. Each of the editions is packed in a double CD set, with the original album appended by b-sides and extra songs.
Final record in the reissues is 2001's neglected "Libertine", self-funded, confident but audibly smaller, the band moved to a more intimate lyrical plain, with songs such as "Does He Have A Name?", "Is It Over", and the frankly amazing "Somewhere In The World" being amongst the best by any band, ever, anywhere, laden down the lyrics as powerful as nuclear weapons, exploring jealously, love, loss, and being left behind with an accuracy only the once heart-broken will ever recognise. In terms of unreleased material, there is little until the time the band were released from their Polydor contract, at which point the band had control of their own recordings, and thus "Libertine" is awash with the b-sides of two singles, an extra handful of songs that the band included in foreign editions of the record, and numerous demos and unreleased songs. (Sadly, the rather unusual cover version of "Back For Good" is absent, but easily available elsewhere). Since two full live shows from the era were released on DVD, it is understandable that no live material is on this release, instead favouring a plethora of unreleased material, with around 13 demos and unreleased songs as well as 10 or so absent from the original record, including the final single, the wonderful, and graceful "Let Me Move On", that proved that even with their dying breath, Gene had more wit in one verse than other bands had in their lifetime. Is it over?
To be honest, there's little more a fan could expect given the circumstances, and the limited commercial interest and profile this band currently has, and whilst it is a musical loss that Gene were not blessed with a 30 year journey similar to obvious contenders of sometimes lesser skill but wider appeal. Sadly, for now, it is over, but at least we had this once.