on 6 February 2014
Who can ask for more? You are getting a digitally remastered reissue of one of the finest pop albums of the 1990s together with two concerts (Live at Sound City, Live at the Forum). The featured live version "Haunted by you" has already been released on "New amusements" and "Truth rest your head" from the Forum gig was the B-side of "For the dead", but that's bean counting compared to the actual value of this neatly compiled record. One thing that is beyond the scope of this record is the absence of the promotional videos that the band had made - I haven't got a clue if any authorized DVD exists at all, nor do I know about the total amount of realised clips apart from "Olympian" and a few live videos that are featured on different 90's compilations. A complete video guide would have been a pleasant feature on this audio CD, as well as a discography including all the different 7'/12' singles with release date and tracklists. The booklet itself takes you on a trip to Gene's beginnings, showing a pastiche of photographs, tour posters and other memorabilia. A nice addition is the interview section in which the former band members make comments on the recordings of the songs - sadly Martin Rossiter doesn't make any contribution here... Can't wait to get hold of the other reissues!
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. 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. Disc 2 of each package generally tends to be a live radio session recorded for the BBC and live material.
"Olympian", the first album, was a confident 11 track missive, which didn't sound like a band tentatively making its debut, but more an assured statement from a band that had been doing this for years. (To an extent, they had, working together in various forms in other bands such as the dreadfully named Sp!n, before becoming the final Gene lineup). As such, it's a record where some of the bands best songs of the time - "For The Dead", "Be My Light, Be My Guide", "I Can't Help Myself", weren't even on it ; favouring new material rather than old singles. Then again most bands would be overjoyed to have an album with three songs as good as "Sleep Well Tonight", "Olympian" and "Haunted By You," The album is appended by two single-only recordings, and several BBC Sessions, The second disc 2 offers two live BBC broadcasts (from Bristol and London), offering about 20 songs in total. Sure, since the band didn't have 20 songs at the time, there is a lot of repetition, - the title track appears four times (I think), but thats not to say this isn't anything other than a bountiful set of treasures. 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, this is as good as it gets.
on 26 December 2000
When this album was released in 1995, reviews in the indie press criticised it for sounding similar to the Smiths. The irony is that the same critics were praising Oasis to the heavens for their music which is even more derivative than this impressive debut. The truth is that this album is an accomplished debut and that the songs are much more than mere Smiths facsimiles. From the rocking opener "Haunted by You" to the mellow "We'll find our own way" this is an album characterised by the soothing, warm voice of Martin Rossiter and the smooth guitar work of Steve Mason. My favourite tracks are the emotional "London Can you wait?" and the spell-binding title-track "Olympian" which builds from an almost hypnotic bass-line into a crashing, spine-tingling climax. The only disappointment I experienced when I purchased this album is that the early single "Be my light, be my guide" wasn't included. Despite this, it is a stunning debut album, and despite their lack of chart success, Gene are still a great live band.
on 4 October 1999
Gene get compared to The Smiths with some regularity - and this isn't entirely unfair: if you can't stand The Smiths, you probably won't think much of Gene either. On the other hand, if (like me) you can see the genius behind 'There is a light that never goes out' and all the other Smiths classics, you'll be smitten with Gene too.
'Olympian' is a glorious, honest, melancholy album; they haven't quite matched it since, though 'Drawn to the Deep End' is ace too. 'Olympian' (the song) is arguably the best on this CD, but 'Haunted by you', 'Sleep well tonight' and 'London, can you wait' all come darned close to it. 'We'll find our own way' closes the album on a gentle, cautiously optimistic note, with Martin Rossiter singing about a hopeful future - gorgeous.
Gene trivia: How many people noticed that there was an 'Olympian' poster on the wall in Ian's cafe, Albert Square, for about two years?
on 4 March 2014
Not to oversell it or anything but Olympian, for my money, is one of the finest début albums of the last twenty years. The muscular opener, Haunted By You, was a real statement of intent. Tracks like Sleep Well Tonight and Olympian ticked the mandatory "anthemic" box with ease, especially when bellowed back at the band by their adoring fans at live shows. And of course songs like Truth, Rest Your Head satisfied everyone who was content to label the band Smiths copyists. Before I move on, let me just add that the re-issue is topped up with radio session tracks and two live sets, none of which are essential but all of which are soaked in nostalgia for fans of Gene and the era alike.
on 7 November 2012
Possibly my favourite album by any artist. Some tracks needed a few listens before I fell in love with them, but this is a thoughtful collection that is both emotional and easy to listen to. Each song is performed exquisitely. In my opinion the weakest are "Sleep well tonight" and "To the city". Still I could listen to this album all day.
(personally I never understood the comparison with the Smiths, I enjoy both bands but consider them very distinct...)
on 15 February 2009
If this record had been released in the last 5 years it would have been lauded. However as previously stated gene suffered with the "pretenders to The Smiths' throne" tag.
Rossiter's vocals are the band's strongest asset. The songs often start quietly and build to multilayered walls of sound.
Best songs ;
Haunted by you
Truth, rest your head,
A car that sped
on 11 February 2014
According to the Gene facebook page there is a slight skip on the reissue of Olympian (CD1, Track 7 at 2:06 in), with the message “Demon are currently rectifying the issue on CD1 of Olympian, if you have a problem with your copy please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be able to help you replace the faulty disc.”